Naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche will rejoin Gilas Pilipinas for the 2015 FIBA Asia Championships in China—the qualifier tournament for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas President Manny V. Pangilinan, who has bankrolled the national basketball team since 2007, announced the return of Blatche after the House of Representatives honored him and Gilas Pilipinas for a noteworthy performance in the FIBA World Cup in Spain where the Philippines broke a 40-year losing spell on the world stage with a victory over Senegal.
“The next occasion is the 2015 FIBA Asia Championships in China, the qualifier for the Olympics. I believe he is allowed to play there because that is a FIBA-sanctioned tournament,” Pangilinan told The Manila Times.
The 6-foot-11 Blatche, who led Gilas Pilipinas in scoring (21.2 points per game) and rebounding (13.8 rebounds per game) during the World Cup in Spain, was barred by the Incheon Asian Games organizers from playing, saying he has not resided in the Philippines for at least three years.
FIBA has backed Blache’s eligibility to play for Gilas Pilipinas, citing a FIBA rule that the three-year residency requirement is only for naturalized players who previously played for other countries in international tournaments.
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), however, ruled against FIBA and prevailed in the process because the Asian Games is sanctioned by OCA.
“Since he was allowed to play in Seville [Spain] which is a FIBA-sanctioned event, he should be allowed to play next year. It should not be a problem,” Pangilinan said.
But even without Blatche in the lineup for now, Pangilinan is confident that Gilas Pilipinas can win its first Asian Games gold since 1962.
“Their experience from the World Cup will bring them in good stead in the Asian Games. The loss of Blatche won’t really matter to their performance,” Panglinan said.