Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio called coach Yeng Guiao’s recent 20-man pool for the FIBA World Cup Qualifiers as possibly the “best Philippine team ever assembled”.
However, a towering, familiar name seems to have been left out of the list.
Much to the surprise of most Filipino fans, naturalized center Andray Blatche was not among the available reinforcements that would take part in the Philippines’ fifth window matches against Kazakhstan and Iran on November 30 and December 3, respectively.
“There’s been a lot of considerations. We appreciate what Andray Blatche has done for us previously. It was really a hard decision on our part,” the Team Pilipinas head honcho said of the former NBA player’s exclusion from the line-up, during a press conference at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on Tuesday.
“There’s a really strong bond among the members and we want to preserve that chemistry and that bond,” he shared. “Since Andray is going to be available only on the Iran game, there’s some limitations to how we can utilize him”.
Blatche has only served two of his three-game suspension from Fiba for his involvement in the Philippines-Australia brawl – meaning he would have to miss the Kazakhstan game if he was included in the pool.
Guiao also expounded on saving the naturalized spots for Christian Standhardinger and Stanley Pringle, who both had exemplary showings in the 2018 Asian Games and the fourth window of the competition.
“Christian Standhardinger has produced numbers that can’t be argued against. So we felt he deserved strong consideration for the line-up,” Guiao said.
With June Mar Fajardo, Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, and even 7’1 cadet Kai Sotto in the mix, Guiao will have plenty of capable bigs to choose from, even without the 32-year-old American at his disposal.
“This is an experiment. Can we play against Iran and their big guys without Andray Blatche? Siguro kapag nakikita natin na nahihirapan tayo at hindi natin kaya, he’s always there as an option,” he admitted.
“If we have June Mar, we have Greg, we have Christian, we have Japeth, Poy Erram and the rest of those guys, at least lahat dito may dugong Pinoy. Baka kaya nating mga Pinoy. Kung hindi man magpatulong tayo, pero kung kaya natin kayanin natin”.
“He will still be considered, lalo na sa next window since wala na siyang suspension,” he concluded.
Lost and confused
Blatche, meanwhile, seemed to have also been taken aback by SBP’s apparent snub.
The New York-native posted a cryptic response on his Instagram page, shortly after the line-up was announced.
Blatche put up 11.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists in the first round of the Asian qualifiers.