By Jonas Terrado
Naturalized player Andray Blatche arrived from the United States on Saturday to join Gilas Pilipinas’ preparation for the FIBA World Cup.
Blatche touched down at 11 a.m. and had lunch with Gilas coach Yeng Guiao, team manager Gabby Cui and Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ special assistant to the president Ryan Gregorio.
He is scheduled to appear in Monday’s practice at the Meralco Gym, with Guiao also expected to name his 15-man pool for the World Cup.
Blatche was supposed to arrive last July 8 but was delayed for a few days due to a court hearing for the custody of his son.
“We are happy to welcome Andray back in Manila,” said SBP President Al Panlilio in a statement.
“It is a great development that he is here early to get reacquainted with his teammates and coaches as we get ourselves ready for the FIBA World Cup in China,” Panlilio added.
The former NBA player had a major role in Gilas’ entry to the World Cup when he dropped 41 points on Kazakhstan in the final qualification match in Astana last February.
That performance helped Blatche redeem himself after being left out of the Gilas roster during the fifth window last November.
Blatche is set to play his second World Cup after reinforcing Gilas during its 2014 appearance in Spain.
He will be part of Gilas’ trip to Spain where they’ll face the host nation, Ivory Coast and Congo in a pocket tournament next month.
Also slated is a two-game series against Aussie side Adelaide 36ers on Aug. 23 and 25 at the Meralco Gym.