Almazan, Blatche & Pogoy return to Gilas duty

MANILA (FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers) – Raymond
Almazan, Andray Blatche, and Roger Pogoy cannot return to a more
opportune time for the national team.

With Gilas reeling from successive losses to Kazakhstan and Iran; the
Philippines is in a dire situation. They need to win against
Kazakhstan and Qatar and hope that Japan or Iran drop a game or two in
order to bolster their chances of qualifying for the 2019 Fiba World
Cup.

It is also of good fortune that the Gilas head coach Yeng Guiao will
receive some help from a star who last played during the SBP’s
national team program’s early years – point guard, Mark Barroca.

“Blessing na maka-balik sa national team,” Pogoy exclaimed with a sigh
of relief. “Gusto ko rin makabawi para sa bayan.”

Added Almazan, “Mahirap yung pagdadaanan pero kung ma-achieve natin
ang goal natin ay masmasarap yung magiging pakiramdam. Sa ngayon, no
talk muna. Trabaho lang.”

Barroca could not contain his excitement at being back. “Malaking
karangalan ito para sa akin, sa pamilya ko, at sa team ko (the
Magnolia Hotshots). Sana makatulong tayo. Exciting opportunity. Nakita
ko last time yung dati ko mga teammate na nakabalik – si Greg
(Slaughter who was activated for the last window) at sina Japeth
(Aguilar) at Marcio (Lassiter). At nandun si Boss Butch (Antonio,
Gilas team manager).”

“The challenges we face aren’t only physical, but also – the
environment and the weather,” noted Guiao. “We go from the heat of
Qatar to the cold of Kazakhstan. Of course, we will be playing in an
air-conditioned venue in Qatar and a heated arena in Kazakhstan, but
the different time zones over two games and a few days apart and kahit
paano mararamdaman mo yung weather – will have an effect on us.”

“But we are playing with our backs to the wall. We will just have to
be at our best. And it’s good to have some old weapons back in Pogoy,
Alamazan, and Blatche. And of course, Barroca who has been playing
well in the PBA.”

“This window is critical in our campaign, we would like to thank again
the support of the PBA for making the PBA players available,” said SBP
President Al Panlilio. “We are also happy to announce that Andray
Blatche has committed to help our drive to qualify for the FIBA World
Cup in China.”

The Filipinos are currently in a dangerous situation, sitting behind
Japan in Group F and just a win ahead of Kazakhstan in the team
standings. There are just four FIBA Asia slots up for grabs, with
Iran, Japan, the Philippines, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, and Jordan playing
for a chance to play on international basketball’s most prestigious
tournament.

The Philippines will begin their final window campaign on the road
against Qatar on 21 February 21 before taking on Kazakhstan on 25
February.