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Blatche boosts Gilas by committing to 2016 campaign
MANILA (2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments) - The Philippines have confirmed Andray Blatche will be in their lineup for a third straight year when the country hosts the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Manila.
The former NBA big man, who has spent the past two seasons playing professionally in China's CBA, has committed to Gilas for another summer. The Filipinos must win the OQT to reach the Rio de Janeiro Games.
"Blatche is already on board," said Manny V. Pangilinan, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) chairman and president.
Gilas will be expecting the 2.11m center to resemble the player that competed at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain and not the one from last summer. At the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha-Hunan, he was out of shape.
In Seville, Spain, Blatche wreaked havoc against opponents. He averaged 21.2 points and 13.8 rebounds.
The pivot was not in tip-top condition last year but was still a major contributor for Gilas. He averaged 17.8ppg and 9.2rpg. His best performance was a 24-point, 17-rebound effort in an 82-70 Quarter-Final triumph over Lebanon.
While securing Blatche's involvement this summer during negotiations with the player's representatives, Gilas stressed the need for Blatche to be fully fit.
"We couldn't overemphasize it to his representatives," said SBP executive director Sonny Barrios in the Philippines media.
We expect a lot from him as he will play on our shores for the first time. Blatche will come much fitter than he was in Changsha. We'll make sure he is in tip-top shape. - Barrios
Blatche will join the team on 15 May. The Filipinos, meanwhile, are resigned to not having Los Angeles Lakers point guard Jordan Clarkson this summer. They have not ruled the Filipino/American out for future competitions, however.