FIBA World Cup 2019: 5 Team Pilipinas players to look out for
Philippines' first game will be on August 31 against Italy, a team that will feature NBA players Marco Belinelli and Danilo Gallinari. They will then tough it out with powerhouse Serbia on September 2 – the team expected to be the winner of the group – with center Nikola Jokic, sharpshooter Bogdan Bogdanovic, big-man Boban Marjanovic, and point guard Milos Teodosic. Pilipinas' last stop will be against Angola, the top team of FIBA Africa.
This year, Team Pilipinas will have a mixture of veterans and up-and-coming Filipino cagers who will need to tough it out without Asia's best point guard Jason Castro and sharpshooters Matthew Wright and Marcio Lassiter. Castro opted out of the competition to focus on his family, while Wright and Lassiter are out because of injuries.
Still, the Gilas Pilipinas roster has some players that could surprise other teams in the group stage. With that, here are five players that teams should look out for as Team Pilipinas fights for a spot in the next round.
#5 Andray Blatche
Of course, center Andray Blatche will still be a great presence both inside and outside the paint. Blatche, who started his stint with the Philippines National Team in the 2014 World Cup has been a star player of Gilas since.
In the last World Cup, the 6'11 center averaged 21.2 points, 13.8 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 1.6 steals, and 0.8 blocks, helping the team mark their first World Cup win since 1974 as they defeated Senegal in the group stages. Blatche was also key to what could've been one of the biggest upsets in FIBA history against Croatia (where the Philippines lost by seven points in overtime), Argentina (lost by four points), and Puerto Rico (lost by four points again).
Although the center will now be much older than the last World Cup at 33 years old, he is still a force to be reckoned with as he has consistently been the leading scorer of Team Pilipinas and has led the team to the SEABA gold medal finish and the FIBA Asia silver medal.
Currently, the ex-NBA player is playing in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) where he is averaging 25.6 points, 10.9 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.1 blocks, and 2.4 steals a game.
Blatche may now be a step slower, but he will definitely still be a huge problem with his paint-scoring and defensive presence. After all, he and Gilas Pilipinas are the current leaders in shots blocked in Asia.