Gilas Pilipinas coach Yeng Guiao said they expect naturalized player Andray Blatche to arrive in the country at the earliest by February 1.
That would give Blatche at the most close to three weeks of getting to know the national squad better before the Gilas plunges into action on February 21 against Qatar, followed by Kazakhstan in a pair of must-win games on the road.
"The earliest date of Blatche's arrival will be February 1. So my main concern is in what kind of shape Andray is in," Guiao told ESPN5. "If he's in good shape, that would be good in enough, but if not, then three weeks might be too short."
The fiery mentor said the 6-10 Blatche will be coming from a stint in China, where the naturalized slotman currently plays for the Tianjin Gold Lions in the Chinese Basketball Association.
But Guiao said he still has to see first how Blatche will do when he arrives in Manila. The big man will be part of the 15-man pool for the sixth and final window for the FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers.
Gilas currently carries an even 5-5 record at Group F after dropping its last two home games against Kazakhstan and Iran late last year.
Only the three top teams from Groups E and F, along with the best fourth-placed squad in the second round of qualifiers will earns spots to the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China.
Gilas practice resumes on January 21. The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) will reportedly reveal the 15-man pool very soon.