Blatche cramming for tough Mighty Sports stint in Dubai
Like he has done even while with Gilas Pilipinas, Andray Blatche arrived a bit over his fighting weight last week as he reinforces Mighty Sports in the Dubai International Basketball Tournament set to kick on in less than two weeks.
The club leaves on July 21 where it will be joined there by 7-foot-2 prodigy Kai Sotto, who could form a truly towering tandem with the former Brooklyn Net Blatche as Mighty Sports shoots to add the Dubai title to its collection.
Coach Charles Tiu is confident that the naturalized Filipino can shed the unwanted pounds before the club leaves.
“We know how good a player he is, but he needs to be in excellent form because we will be again facing formidable teams from the Middle East,” said Tiu, who masterminded the team’s title sweep of Taiwan’s Jones Cup last year.
Determined to improve on its third-place finish last year, Mighty Sports has been training daily since the 6-foot-9 Blatche arrived on Thursday.
“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 team owner Alex Wongchuking, a basketball nut who has been more than willing to send teams to represent the Philippines.
Except for Sotto, all members of the 16-man team were all present and accounted for during the first three days of training, with each one relishing the opportunity to play in a tough international tournament.
Sotto can’t join Mighty’s preparation due to a previous commitment, but the former Ateneo high school standout will fly straight to the ultra-modern capital city of the United Arab Emirates also on Jan 21.Despite Sotto’s absence in training, Tiu expressed no apprehension with regards to team chemistry, believing the 17-year-old star can easily adjust to his system.
Sotto is in the United States right now, trying to toughen up himself at The Skill Factory as several top NCAA teams have already expressed interest in tapping his services.
Renaldo Balkman and McKenzie Moore—imports with international championship experience—and several collegiate standouts like Ateneo’s Thirdy Ravena and University of the Philippines’ Juan Gomez de Liaño complete the team’s nucleus. Ravena passed out in declaring for the PBA Draft and will be coming off his last season in the UAAP with the Blue Eagles, whom he led to a fourth straight title.
Blatche has had several stints with the Gilas Five counting two World Cup appearances that started with the 2014 edition in Seville, Spain, where he played his best ball as a Filipino.
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