A day after the Philippines kissed its Rio Olympics dream goodbye, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) Deputy Director for International Affairs Butch Antonio said that the SBP will keep the 6’11 Andray Blatche in the next four years for the Gilas Pilipinas cadet program.
Antonio added that despite Gilas’ early exit in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) that the Philippines is currently hosting, the SBP has no intention of replacing the former National Basketball Association power forward Blatche.
“Everybody is frustrated until now because we lost but there’s no reason to replace him [Blatche]. He is the only naturalized player that we have right now,” Antonio told The Manila Times in a phone interview. “Blatche just went home to US earlier and don’t worry he’ll come back.”
Antonio referred to Gilas Pilipinas’ 80-89 loss to the New Zealand Tall Blacks on Wednesday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Blatche finished with 30 points in that game but not enough to earn the Philippines a win .
Earlier on Tuesday, Gilas also lost to the French national team headed by Nando de Colo and Tony Parker 86-94.
“Andray is not blaming anyone. He is just sad because they didn’t win in either games. The 2020 Olympics is still a long, long way to go and we’re not thinking about that as of the meantime. Andray will remain as our naturalized player,” said Antonio.
Meanwhile, Gilas coach Tab Baldwin said that the national team needs to prepare very early and hone its skills in international games if it hopes to make it to the next Olympics in 2020.
“If we want to win in this level, we have to take a lot of beating in this level to learn to win in this level. If you look at those European teams, this is their life and we need a lot of these to increase our experience,” said Baldwin.
“There is no other path, trust me there is no other way but to play more in this kind of level. New Zealand’s build up was 10 or 12 matches preparation, while us had only five not counting the Iran’s tune-up games.”
“We need to analyze what happened and what went wrong,” Baldwin said.
The SBP under the leadership of business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan is looking forward to revive the Gilas Cadet program this year. With the program in place, the national team will no longer have to loan professional players from the Philippine Basketball Association whenever the country needs to compete in an international meet. Players who will be included in the program will come from amateur and collegiate ranks.
Under Baldwin’s tutelage, the Philippine team almost made it to the Rio Olympics finishing second to China in the FIBA Asia Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Changsha, China in October 2015.
JOSEF T. RAMOS