Andray Blatche is back in Manila.
The naturalized Filipino arrived Saturday morning to join the preparations of Gilas Pilipinas for the upcoming 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China. Blatche was welcomed by Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao, team manager Gabby Cui, and Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas Special Assistant to the President Ryan Gregorio.
Gilas Pilipinas compiled an 8-4 win-loss tally in the FIBA Asian Qualifiers to book a ticket to China this coming August but Blatche was only able to play eight games. The Philippines won six of those eight games with both losses dealt by Australia.
Blatche was not able to suit up in the team's away game against Iran and home games against Qatar and Kazakhstan due to FIBA's three-game suspension and he was not activated for the game against Iran at the Mall of Asia Arena last December.
However, upon his return, Blatche showed that he was eager to make up for lost time as he led Gilas to an 84-46 win against Qatar where he dropped 17 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists, two steals, and two blocks for his comeback game.
Blatche saved his best performance for last against Kazakhstan where he exploded with 31 points, 13 rebounds, four steals, and four blocks to guarantee a World Cup spot for Gilas.
He averaged 16.0 points, 12.4 rebounds, 2.0 steals, and 2.1 blocks per game during the FIBA Asian Qualifiers.
"We are happy to welcome Andray back in Manila," said SBP President Al Panlilio.
"It is a great development that he is here early to get reacquainted with his teammates and coaches as we get ourselves ready for the FIBA World Cup in China. We are excited to see a full Gilas Pilipinas roster who will be ready to fight for flag and country."
Aside from joining Gilas in practice, Blatche will also fly with the team to Spain where they will play in a pocket tournament and a few more tune-up games in Manila against the Adelaide 36ers before flying to China.
"It is a source of pride for our country to be included in the FIBA World Cup for the second straight time," Panlilio added. "Our goal now is to compete and win against world class teams in our bracket that includes Serbia, Italy, and Angola and, hopefully, progress."