Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin said that the national team will begin its campaign in the 37th William Jones Cup today when it battles host Taiwan A at the Xinchuang Gymnasium in New Taipei City, Taiwan.
However, Baldwin said that Gilas would miss the 6’11 Andray Blatche in most games because the naturalized Filipino player left Taiwan on Saturday to attend the funeral of his uncle Steve who passed away recently.
“We’ve been talking to Andray in the past couple of days and he’s been talking to his family. The situation is tough. His mom is alone now. She lost her last sibling and Andray has been taking care of her in the last six months so he wanted to be with her,” Baldwin said in a television interview by ABC Channel 5.
“It’s tough. But it doesn’t mean we can’t be human because situations are tough. There was no decision to be made. It was only a matter of timing for him and his family and when the funeral is going to be.”
Blatche is expected to return next week to join Gilas in the last two games of the elimination round.
Without Blatche, Baldwin would be depending on the prowess of Philippine Basketball Association 2015 top overall pick Moala Tautuaa, veteran Paul Asi Taulava and Jean Marc Pingris when Gilas battles host Taiwan A.
Taiwan is considered one of the toughest teams in the tournament because of its running game and rock-solid defense.
Game time begins at 7 p.m.
Gilas Pilipinas is a four-time Jones Cup champion. The last time they won the title was under coach Chot Reyes in 2012.