MANILA, Philippines—Andray Blatche arrived a bit over his fighting weight last week, but Mighty Sports owner Alex Wongchuking and coach Charles Tiu are confident that the naturalized Filipino can shed the unwanted pounds before the team leaves on January 21 for the Dubai International Basketball Tournament.
"We know how good of a player he is, but he needs to be in excellent form because we will be again facing formidable teams from Lebanon and the Middle East," said Tiu, who called the shots for the team when it swept the Jones Cup last year.
Determined to improve on its third place finish last year, Mighty Sports has been training daily since Blatche arrived on Thursday, as the team intends to add the Dubai title to its trophy cabinet.
"With a good mix of young and veteran players in the team we are hoping we can at least finish in the top four," said Wongchuking.
Except for Kai Sotto, all members of the 16-man team attended the team's first three days of practice.
The 7-foot-2 Sotto cannot yet join Mighty's preparation due to a previous commitment, but the former Ateneo high school standout will fly straight to Dubai on January 21.
Despite Sotto's absence in training, Tiu expressed his confidence that the teenager can easily adjust to his system.
The 17-year-old Sotto is currently in the United States, where he has drawn interest from college teams. He will have only two days to study all of Mighty's plays as the 9-day competition starts on January 23.
The presence of Renaldo Balkman and McKenzie Moore, two foreign reinforcements with championship experience, as well as several collegiate standouts such as Ateneo's Thirdy Ravena and UP's Juan Gomez de Liaño bolsters Mighty Sports' chances of finishing in the top four.
Other members of the team are Joseph Yeo, Rain or Shine’s Beau Belga, Joaqui Manuel, Gab Banal, Jarell Lim, Dave Ildefonso, Juan Gomez De Liano, Jamie Malonzo, Mikey Williams and Jelan Kendrick.
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