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''Confirmed! I'm back!'' - Andray Blatche
MANILA (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers) - It looks like the Philippines will be at full strength when they play at the final Asian Qualifiers window, especially with Andray Blatche back in the fold.
The Philippines played below par in the previous window, losing to both Kazakhstan and Iran on their own home floor and complicating their chances to qualify to the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 in China.
Blatche wasn't called up in that window as national team head coach Yeng Guiao opted to tap Filipino-American Stanley Pringle and Filipino-German Christian Standhardinger as their naturalized players for Kazakhstan and Iran respectively.
The two defeats, however, have reignited the fans' fervor to have Blatche return to the national team in a bid to strengthen their position in Group F.
For now, it sure seems like those prayers have been answered as the former NBA and CBA big man has announced his commitment not just to rejoin Team Pilipinas but to also fly to Manila at the earliest possible time to get ready.
"It’s confirmed!" Blatche said. "I will be back to play for the Philippines in February! Can’t wait to win these two games for the best fans in the world."
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) President Al Panlilio welcomed the development, expressing his elation at how the New York-born Blatche is set to be the national team's anchor once again.
"He sent us word of his commitment for the next window," Panlilio declared. "In fact, he is willing to come in early to get in top shape and to work with coach Yeng Guiao and understand his system."
Blatche has played in 6 Asian Qualifiers games so far, averaging 11.7 points, 11.8 rebounds, 2.2 blocks and 1.7 steals per game.
The Philippines are currently at fourth place in Group F behind Australia, Iran and Japan. The Filipinos need to win both sixth window games to put their qualification beyond doubt. They will finish their Asian Qualifiers campaign on the road against Qatar on 21 February and Kazakhstan on 24 February.