Even if he’s willing to represent the Philippines in the Manila Olympic Qualifying Tourney, back-up naturalized player Moala Tautuaa knows Gilas Pilipinas’ chances in the Rio de Janiero Olympics qualifiers will be at its best with tested naturalized big man Andray Blatche in the fold.
“I hope he plays because that’s our best shot,” said the 6-foot-8 Fil-Tongan in a recent interview at the end of Gilas Pilipinas’ practice at the Meralco gym in Ortigas, Pasig City.
The 6-foot-11 Blatche, 29, has yet to join the Nationals’ training session as he continues to attend to his ailing mom. But he appears to be in great shape—in terms of his recent photos surfacing online—and is expected to arrive in Manila sometime this week.
“He’s a bigger guy than me, brings different things to the table that we need,” Tautuaa said of Blatche, a former NBA veteran who suited up for Gilas in the 2014 Basketball World Cup in Spain and in the FIBA-Asia cage meet in China last year.
“If I play in his position, then it’s good for (me). But we want what’s best for the team. Our offense is built around him already, so it’s all geared toward the player he is, so we need him.”
The top overall pick by Tropang TNT in the rookie draft last year, Tautuaa is also hoping Blatche will be true to his words that he’s in top shape when he returns to the country ahead of the Manila OQT set from July 5 to 10 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
“We don’t have much training time, but I’m sure he’s a professional and he knows his body. He should come back in shape ready for the qualifiers,” he said.
Tautuaa also doesn’t mind if he’s not assured of making it to the Gilas’ Final 12, saying he’s also seeking to help himself improve in time as he tries to redeem himself for the Tropang TNT in the season-ending Governors Cup that get going in July 15.
“I see this as step up for me because I want to be better next conference and this will lead into the next conference. I’ll be in better condition and shape. My hope is to be a more sharpened player,” said former Chadron State College standout.
“There’s only so much you can do. It’s just fun to hang out, but right now, I want to work. I want to be better. And there’s only one way to get better–and that’s to work.” – By Jerome Lagunzad
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