Andray Blatche arrived a bit over his fighting weight last week but Mighty Sports owner Alex Wongchuking and coach Charles Tiu are confident the naturalized Filipino can shed the unwanted pounds before the club leaves on Jan. 21 for the Dubai International Basketball Tournament.
“We know how good a player he is, but he needs to be in excellent form because we will be facing formidable teams from Lebanon and Middle East,” said Tiu, who steered the team to a title sweep of the Jones Cup last year.
Out to improve on its third place-finish, Mighty Sports has been training daily since the 6-foot-9 Blatche flew in 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 Wongchuking, who is thankful for the support of Creative Pacific of Bong Cuevas, Go for Gold, Oriental Game and Gatorade.
Except for the 7-foot-2 Kai Sotto, all members of the 16-man team were all present during the team’s first three days of practice.
Sotto will fly straight to the ultra-modern capital city of the United Arab Emirates for the tournament.
Sotto is in the US, toughening up at The Skill Factory with several top NCAA teams already expressing interest in tapping his services.
Renaldo Balkman and McKenzie Moore – imports with championship experience – and several collegiate standouts like Ateneo’s Thirdy Ravena and UP’s Juan Gomez De Liano will back up Blatche.
Other members of the team are Joseph Yeo, Rain or Shine’s Beau Belga, Joaqui Manuel, Gab Banal, Jarell Lim, Dave Ildefonso, Juan Gomez De Liano, Jamie Malonzo, Mikey Williams and Jelan Kendrick.