Samahang Baskeball ng Pilipinas (SBP) President Manny V. Pangilinan said that he is confident that Gilas Pilipinas would perform well in the upcoming FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament slated on July 5 to 10 at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, despite the absence of National Basketball Association (NBA) player Jordan Clarkson.
“Clarkson’s inclusion is still a long process unlike Andray [Blatche] who is already a naturalized Filipino,” Pangilinan told reporters during a news conference at the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City. “At the same time, Blatche is more familiar with the system than Clarkson.”
“Blatche is the safer choice because we do not know also if there would be enough time or whether he has the time to go here and prepare,” he added.
The 6’10 Blatche, a former NBA player, will be arriving in Manila from China in May. Blatche played for the Philippines in the 2015 FIBA Asia Olympic Qualifying in Changsha, China where Gilas Pilipinas finished second behind champion China.
Pangilinan expressed optimism despite the fact that the Philippines would be up against the best basketball teams in the world.
“Well, I’m optimistic. We have to stay positive for now,” said Pangilinan. “At the same time, Clarkson isn’t that tall although he is a better player. Well, ideally we can have them both but we can’t.”
Pangilinan said that he is not worried about Gilas Pilipinas being against seasoned NBA players in the Olympic qualifiers, “Let’s not be worried about NBA players. We cannot do anything if they will be allowed to play. They’re the best in the world and let’s just see how we play against them.”
Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin is expected to return next week in Manila to resume the team’s training after attending the wake of his late brother Terry in Florida.
The Manila qualifiers will feature double headers – first game is set 6:30 p.m. and the second game 9 p.m. All Gilas Pilipinas games were scheduled second games. The Philippines will meet FIBA’s No. 5 France on July 5 and No. 21 New Zealand on July 6.
The other countries that the No. 28 Philippines will be up against are No. 8 Turkey, No. 26 Canada and No. 31 Senegal.