Blatche secures Filipino citizenship

Photo by  Mark Giongco via inquirer.net

Photo by Mark Giongco via inquirer.net

By Delon Porcalla/The Philippine Star – President Aquino has approved the Filipino citizenship of 27-year-old American cager Andray Blatche, giving Smart Gilas Pilipinas national team a legitimate big man when it slugs it out with the best centers of the sport in the World Cup in Spain in August.

“We confirm that the President signed Republic Act 10636 granting Filipino citizenship to Mr. Blatche,” read a text message sent to Palace reporters by the office of presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

Documents regarding the naturalization of the former NBA player, a mainstay of the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA, have been forwarded to the Office of the President Friday last week.

Sen. Sonny Angara, chairman of the Senate committee on games, amusement and sports, filed last February bills seeking the naturalization of Blatche and JaVale McGee so that they can reinforce the men’s national basketball team.

The neophyte senator said the Philippines’ “recent modest ascent” in the FIBA standings “ought to be sustained.” He said it is a step toward sustaining this “development of Philippine basketball in the international scene.”

Meanwhile, videos of Gilas Pilipinas’ games in the last FIBA Asia Championship and a Molten ball were among the important things in Andray Blatche’s luggage as the Filipino naturalized player candidate flew back to the United States Tuesday night.

Ahead of eventually joining the Gilas pool in training in July, Blatche goes over the Gilas videos to familiarize himself with the moves, tendencies and strength of each member of Team Pilipinas.

He personally asked for the Molten ball to get a feel of the ball used in FIBA championships, including the World Cup. The NBA uses Spalding.

“He’s that serious,” said Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios.

Blatche and his entourage watched the PBA games Tuesday night before proceeding to the airport for his flight home.

The Brooklyn Nets second-string center visited the Philippines for three days to personally thank members of the Congress and the Senate for crafting his naturalization, meet some of his would-be teammates and learn Filipino values and culture.

In his brief stay, Blatche made impression as a good, jolly guy that could easily blend with the Filipino players and with original Gilas naturalized player Marcus Douthit.

Blatche said he’s gone along way with Douthit whom he has played with and against in numerous games back in the US. Both will be part of the pool embarking on a two-month training to prepare for the World Cup in Aug. 30-Sept. 13 in Spain and the succeeding Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea. But only one suits up for those tourneys.

The 27-year-old, 6-foot-11 Syracuse, New York native promised to give everything he’s got for Team Pilipinas.

“I kind of owe it the people who worked very hard to get me in this position,” said Blatche.

“I’m going to play my game, come out and be an offensive threat, bring energy on the floor, and protect the paint, create shots for my teammates,” he also said.

Blatche is confident he can compete with the best of the best in the world.

“I’ve been playing against NBA players for the last few years of my life. So I feel like it’s not going to be a hard adjustment for me (playing against international centers in the world joust),” Blatche said.

Blatche said he’s committed to play for Gilas in the World Cup and in the Asian Games. “After that we’ll see from there,” he said.

He insisted he’s blessed to be in his position now with the opportunity to play in the World Cup.

“Basketball is huge here and its ‘puso.’ The heart of Filipinos is in basketball. I love basketball. So we had the similarity,” he said.

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