• SBP to pursue new naturalized player

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    Andray Blatche (No. 11)
    PHOTO BY RUSSELL PALMA

    Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) President Al Panlilio will sit down with Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes and discuss their plan to add another naturalized player to give the country a fighting chance for the new qualification format leading to the 2019 International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup in China.

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    Andray Blatche will remain in the plan but his availability in the six-window qualification stage is not certain due to his commitment with his team in the Chinese Basketball Association.

    “We we’ll sit down with coach Chot (Reyes). I asked him to create a pool because Andray Blatche is a big asset that we know. He has his own calendar in schedule also, so we want to make sure that we have a back-up in any future tournament,” said Panlilio.

    “I told him to put two or three names in the pool and we can choose from there,” he added.

    Blatche played for Gilas 5 that won the Southeast Asia Basketball Association (SEABA) Championship and played a key role in their gold-clinching match against Indonesia to sweep the seven-nation tournament.

    But the 6’11 former National Basketball Association was not as sharp and deadly when he first suited up for the Philippines in the 2014 FIBA World Cup of Basketball in Spain.

    Though Blatche remains an option, the SBP knew it’s high time to look for one more naturalized player as the Philippines will be facing Japan, Chinese Taipei and Oceania powerhouse Australia in the 2019 World Cup qualifying stages.

    Meanwhile, Panlilio said the SBP will form two national teams for the FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon and the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Both tournaments will take place in August.

    JOSEF T. RAMOS

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