As Gilas Pilipinas resumes its campaign in the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, naturalized player Andray Blatche confessed that he was hurt after being ‘discarded’ from the national team pool for the fifth window.
In a statement released by sports company Theia Sports on Wednesday, Nov. 28, Blatche admitted that he felt shocked by reports of his omission from the line-up of the Philippine National Men’s Basketball team since the Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas (SBP) didn’t inform him or his agent beforehand.
“I think it was a very unprofessional way to handle someone like me who has so much invested in the Gilas program. The way this was handled was not a good representation of Filipinos in general who are kind and hospitable and loyal,” Blatche said.
“I must admit I was very hurt by how carelessly I was discarded by the SBP,” Blatche added.
The 6 ft. 11 Gilas mainstay said that his exclusion from the national squad has made him question whether his loyalty and passion to win for the Philippines has been reciprocated.
Blatche stressed that he played for the Philippine team even when his mother, Angela Oliver, was fighting against cancer. He also flew back to Manila to practice with the national squad for the 2017 SEABA Championships even though his child, Andray Blatche Jr., was just born.
The former NBA star also pointed out that he received a three-game suspension from the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) for coming to the defense of Gilas teammate Roger Pogoy during the in-game brawl between the Philippine team and Australian team in July at the the Philippine Arena in Bulacan. He said that he accepted the sanctions even though he believes that the SBP leadership ‘should have fought harder for its team and appealed’.
Blatche added that he did not sign with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers for the 24th season of the Chinese Basketball Association so that he will be ‘fully available’ for the call of Gilas Pilipinas.
“I’ve done what was asked of me. Winning is what we have done since I was granted citizenship,” Blatche said.
Even amidst his frustrations for being snubbed from the national team, Blatche assured that he will always be available ‘in any capacity’ for his adopted country. He also reiterated his love for the Filipino public, and his pride for the basketball players of the country.
“I love my Filipino fans and to me, they are the best in the world. I think Filipino basketball players are fantastic because they have mad skills and a passionate heart,” Blatche said.
Blatche also admitted been keeping tabs on the preparations of the Philippine team, including the their four tune-up games against Jordan and Lebanon. Philippines lost three of the said games: one against Jordan and two against Lebanon.
Gilas Pilipinas seized their sole victory during those series of tune-up games after the opposing Jordanian team walked-out of the court following an altercation between Philippine’s head coach Yeng Guiao and Jordan’s coach Joey Stiebing.
“I wish I was there to make sure we win. I’d like to think that I was instrumental along with Coach Chot (Reyes) and my teammates in bringing the team to where it is now and I am invested in my adopted country winning and getting to the World Cup,” Blatche said.
“Seeing these struggles has worried me. I really wanted to help my country rewrite history and win more games in the World Cup,” Blatche added.
Earlier this November, Guiao and the SBP unveiled the 20-man player pool for the back-to-back home games of Gilas Pilipinas against Kazakhstan on Friday, Nov. 30, and Iran on Monday, Dec. 03. Blatche was not included in the list even after he made public with his readiness to suit up for the Philippine team.
Guiao explained that they made the hard decision of excluding Blatche, who can only play for the Iran game, from the line-up due to numerous considerations including the chemistry and bond built by the players during the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, and the fourth window of the Asian Qualifiers.
Guiao added that Blatch will be considered in the sixth window of the Asian Qualifiers. SBP President Alfredo Panlilo also asked that Blatche to remain in shape for the next games of the qualifiers.