MANILA, Philippines – Andray Blatche arrived a bit overweight last week but team officials believe the naturalized Filipino can shed the unwanted pounds before Mighty Sports leaves on January 21 for the Dubai International Basketball Tournament.
“We know how good a player he is, but he needs to be in excellent form because we will be again facing formidable teams from Lebanon and Middle East,” said coach Charles Tiu, who masterminded the team’s title sweep of Taiwan’s Jones Cup last year.
Determined to improve on its third-place finish last year, Mighty Sports has been training daily since the 6-foot-9 Blatche arrived on Thursday, January 9 as the team intends to add the Dubai title to its trophy cabinet.
Except for the 7-foot-2 Kai Sotto, all members of the 16-man team joined the team’s first 3 days of training, each one relishing the opportunity to play for Mighty Sports in a tough international tournament.
Sotto can’t join Mighty’s preparation due to a previous commitment but the former Ateneo standout will fly straight to the ultra-modern capital city of United Arab Emirates also on January 21.
Despite Sotto’s absence, Tiu and Mighty Sports team owner Alex Wongchuking think team chemistry won’t be a problem, believing the 17-year-old star can easily adjust to Tiu’s system.
“With a good mix of young and veteran players in the team, we are hoping we can at least finish in the top 4,” said Wongchuking, who is thankful for the support of Creative Pacific of Bong Cuevas, Go for Gold, Oriental Game, and Gatorade.
Sotto has been in the US trying to toughen up at The Skill Factory as several top NCAA teams have already expressed interest in tapping his services.
The towering teen will have two days to jell with the team before the nine-day event starts on January 23.
The presence of Renaldo Balkman and McKenzie Moore – imports with championship experience – and several collegiate standous like Ateneo’s Thirdy Ravena and UP’s Juan Gomez de Liaño is one reason Mighty Sports sees a good chance of finishing in the top 4.
Other members of the team are Joseph Yeo, Rain or Shine’s Beau Belga, Joaqui Manuel, Gab Banal, Jarell Lim, Dave Ildefonso, Javi Gomez de Liaño, Jamie Malonzo, Mikey Williams and Jelan Kendrick. – Rappler.com