Andray Blatche Granted Filipino CitizenshipBy: Brian Powell - June 11, 2014
On Wednesday, Benigno Aquino, President of the Philippines, signed a bill which he and his countrymen hope will boost the success of Filipino sports to unprecedented levels. The bill, which was rushed through Congress in unusual form, granted citizenship to Brooklyn Nets center Andray Blatche, allowing him to play for the Philippines in the World Cup this fall.
No, Andray Blatche is not going to be playing soccer. However, the 6’11” NBA star will be playing with the Filipino national team during this year’s FIBA World Cup. Per FIBA rules, each international team is allowed to have one naturalized citizen on its roster. For the Philippines, the acquisition of Blatche is a huge boost.
For Blatche, the decision was an easy one: ”The sport of basketball is huge here. It’s in the heart of every Filipino and I love basketball, and so it’s like we have that similarity.”
Blatche arrived in the Philippines on Saturday and was met by Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes. The two immediately began talking basketball.
“Coach [Chot Reyes] taught me a little bit about how the offense works and I met a couple of players. I can see that they’re playing with a lot of heart and they’ve been physical. [Playing against NBA players] is not going to be an adjustment for me. I’ve been playing in that level since I was 18 years old.”
Despite the fact that Blatche should have a huge advantage over his peers due to his NBA experience, he still plans to be an ardent student in order to give the Philippines team their best chance in their first FIBA World Cup in 35 years. “I’ll be watching tapes so I can know how the guys play offense and defense. I’ll be working out with the FIBA ball so I can familiarize myself a little bit. It’s a little different but it’s not a game-changing difference.”
The Philippines will be in Group B of the FIBA World Cup, along with Argentina, Croatia, Greece, Puerto Rico and Senegal. While the 34th ranked team in the world does not have huge expectations in their first FIBA appearance in quite some time, Blatche hopes to lead the team to as many victories as possible.
When asked what he will personally add to the team, Blatche had one simple answer: “Height.”
Blatche’s response was just one of many witty comments he had during his press conference, most of which centered around Blatche’s claim to be Manny Pacquiao’s cousin.
The 2014 FIBA World Cup kicks off August 30th.
Image via Twitter