MANILA, Philippines – The sooner, the better.
Yeng Guiao wants to have Andray Blatche on board for Gilas Pilipinas as early as possible in the run-up to the 2019 FIBA World Cup that will be staged in China from August 31 to September 30.
Although the chances of seeing the former NBA player suit up as import in the PBA are unlikely, Guiao seeks to avoid cramming their preparations, just like what happened in the Asian Qualifiers.
In the sixth window of the qualifiers, Blatche had less than 3 weeks of practice with the Nationals and even missed days in between because of his commitment with the Tianjin Gold Lions in the Chinese Basketball Association.
But enough will not cut it in the quadrennial showpiece, where the world's best 32 nationals will vie for basketball supremacy.
"We would want to be able to prepare at least two months. Instead of 2 to 3 weeks, maybe we can stretch it to 2 to 3 months," Guiao said after the PBA honored the entire Gilas program on Sunday, March 3.
"And part of that preparation is getting Andray Blatche in early and competing close to the level of the World Cup."
Another reason to have the 6-foot-11 big man in tow earlier is to monitor his fitness, Guiao said.
In the previous windows, Blatche's shape had been a concern when he was away from the national team and when he was not playing competitive basketball.
"My worry is after his China commitments, Andray Blatche is going back to the States. And for how long? We do not know. And the problem is, if he's not competing, then there's always a chance of him getting out of shape."
"[W]e have to look and find a way to get him here early, get him in shape, and have him ready for the World Cup," Guiao added.
A plan to fulfill that goal is by having Gilas compete in pocket tournaments now that the initial idea of the national team participating in the Jones Cup had been practically shot down due to conflict with the PBA schedule.
"[T]he other option given to us was just to play some friendly matches with teams that are not in our group or organize pocket tournaments," Guiao said.
"We don't know what are the specifics or what will exactly happen, but those are the options given to us. So from here, we will be talking to the PBA and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas," he added in a mix of Filipino and English. – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.