Blatche, Barroca return to Gilas in 14-man pool for World Cup qualifiers
MANILA, Philippines – Andray Blatche makes his keenly awaited return to Gilas Pilipinas as he spearheads the 14-man pool for the sixth and final window of the World Cup qualifiers in February.
Serving a 3-game suspension from FIBA and missing the fifth window after being left out of the previous 20-man pool, the former NBA player will once again reinforce the Nationals in their final push for a 2019 World Cup berth.
"We are happy to announce that Andray Blatche has committed to help our drive to qualify for the FIBA World Cup in China," said Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio in a press release Tuesday, January 15.
Panlilio added Blatche will arrive in the country first week of February.
Other key returnees are Mark Barroca, who was a member of the original Gilas squad under coach Rajko Toroman, and RR Pogoy, who is set to complete his 5-game suspension.
Joining the 3 are mainstays Jayson Castro, Paul Lee, Scottie Thompson, Marcio Lassiter, Gabe Norwood, Troy Rosario, Japeth Aguilar, Poy Erram, June Mar Fajardo and Raymond Almazan.
Christian Standhardinger was also named in the pool as back-up for the naturalized player spot.
After dropping two straight home games in the fifth window against Kazakhstan and Iran, the Filipinos slipped to 4th place in Group F behind a 5-5 card behind Australia (9-1), Iran (7-3) and Japan (6-4).
Only the top 3 teams from Groups E and F are assured of World Cup seats.
In order to bolster its chances of reaching the global basketball meet, the Philippines could not afford a loss when it meets Qatar and Kazakhstan on February 21 and 25, respectively, in back-to-back road games in the sixth window.
Training for the sixth window begins on January 21 before Gilas leaves for Middle East for a set of tuneup games. – Rappler.com