6'11" NBA player Andray Blatche, soon to be a Pinoy, watches the PBA game between Rain or Shine and Meralco. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – Naturalized player Andray Blatche of the Brooklyn Nets saw firsthand how Filipinos play basketball when he watched a PBA game in the final day of his three-day visit to Manila Tuesday night.
"I was able to watch a couple of minutes and I can see that they perform with a lot of heart, and they're very physical," Blatche said, as quoted by PBA.ph. "They've been super aggressive, and I can tell what kind of basketball they play."
Blatche, who was granted Filipino citizenship by the Philippine Senate late last month, was able to meet his new Gilas Pilipinas teammates as well, and said he was welcomed with open arms.
"I met them at lunch and sat down for 15 to 20 minutes. We talked about basketball," he said. "We have the same thing in mind, which is to win, to go out there and work together. I can tell that we’re all on the same page."
Blatche said he considers it a "blessing" to be given the chance not only to play for the Philippines, but also to learn a new culture.
"People have been super generous and welcoming," he said.
Blatche also repeatedly expressed his gratitude to be given the chance to play for the Philippines, and vowed to play his best for the country in the FIBA World Cup in August.
"Honestly, I really feel like I owe it to the people that worked very hard to get me here and I respect them," he said. "They've been more than welcoming, and I can appreciate them for all the hard work they did to get me to the position to play for you all."
"For them, I'll come out here and work hard, get the wins, and play well. I'm very grateful," he added.
Once he's on the floor for Gilas, Blatche said he plans to "play my game" and be an offensive threat who can provide energy but also create scoring opportunities for the other members of the national team.
“"I heard we got a lot of shooters in this team," he said. "I'll just play my game and go out there and compete, try as hard (as I can) to get a win."
As proof that he is taking his responsibility as the newest Gilas recruit seriously, Blatche even took home with him some tapes of the national team “to get familiar with the guys and the offense and the defense,” as well as a regulation FIBA basketball.