Andray Blatche looks forward to the next few weeks of Gilas Pilipinas' preparations for the upcoming FIBA World Cup.
Blatche and 10 other players flew to Spain Sunday for an eight-day training that includes a series of tune-up games with Ivory Coast, Congo, and possibly the Spanish national team.
"I'm excited about having a real training camp," said Blatche. "This trip to Spain is great preparation for us so we can come together and jell as one."
Aside from working on their team chemistry in Spain, Blatche said he'll also use the time to improve his conditioning and get into better game shape.
"Personally, I'm working on conditioning, running in the fourth quarter, and playing defense," said Blatche. "I'm quite sure about the time I get back from Spain, I will be one hundred percent ready."
The naturalized big man also led the Philippines in the last FIBA World Cup, but only four more players from the 2014 roster remain in the national pool -- Gabe Norwood, June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, and Paul Lee.
Blatche admits that heading into battle without former Gilas mainstays, such as top point guards Jimmy Alapag and Jayson Castro, is going to be "a little different." But he believes that the new players are ready to step up and fill the void.
"This team right here is more young and athletic," said Blatche. "This is a great group of guys that we got here. Our offense is always going to come for this team. It's more about defense for us."
Blatche stressed the importance of coming out strong in their opening game against Italy, which could help them get the confidence that they need against Serbia and Angola.
"Our goal is to come in and win that game right there and take the momentum going on to the next two," said Blatche. "Serbia is going to be a tough team for us to compete against definitely size-wise. But anything can happen if we hit our shots."
Banking on lessons that they learned five years ago, Blatche and the rest of Gilas Pilipinas are hoping to get past the initial group stage this time around.
"Me and a couple of guys have been here before," said Blatche. "I'm quite sure myself and Gabe and all the other guys who've been there learned from our mistakes last time. We know how each possession counts and how to close the games in the fourth quarter. We know what it takes."