Blatche: Underdog tag good for Gilas
Just by looking at the Fiba rankings alone, the Philippines is the underdog in its group in the Fiba Olympic qualifying tournament.
European juggernaut France is the fifth-ranked team in the world while New Zealand is the 21st-ranked team, the Philippines is the lowest ranked team in Group B at 28th.
Gilas Pilipinas’ low stature, however, does not concern naturalized big man Andray Blatche.
“There’s nothing wrong with being the underdog. It takes a bit of pressure off of us,” said Blatche, who attended a college basketball game between De La Salle University and Letran on Sunday at San Juan Arena.
“It allows us to play our game comfortably, and not to be too stressed out there,” Blatche added,
Gilas opens its campaign against France and its NBA-laden team led by star point guard Tony Parker. Only the top two teams in each group will advance to the knockout semifinals and if the Philippines moves on, it will face either of the Group A favorites in Canada and Turkey.
Canada will be anchored by fast-rising star Andrew Wiggins of the Minnesota Timberwolves while Turkey is also a team which has no shortage of NBA talent. Senegal, the only squad the Philippines was able to beat in the 2014 World Cup, too, boasts of an NBA player in Gorgui Dieng.
Only the tournament winner will earn a spot in the Rio Olympics.
Gilas may have a slim chance to book a ticket to Rio, Blatche believes the team is capable of making it.
“We’re gonna come out with a lot of fight and a lot of heart and I really think we have a good chance.”
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