MANILA, Philippines -- Andray Blatche was widely criticized for his lackluster performances in the FIBA Basketball World Cup last year, as he failed to lead Gilas Pilipinas to a single victory in the tournament.
Much was expected of Blatche, but he averaged just 15.8 points and 8.4 rebounds per game while shooting just 40% from the field. In their final game against Iran, he had 12 points and 5 rebounds before being ejected with over five minutes to play due to back-to-back technical fouls.
Yeng Guiao, who coached the national team in the tournament, acknowledged during a recent online webinar that Blatche could have played at a higher level.
"In the World Cup, it could have been better," said Guiao. "But don't take anything away from Andray. He gave it his all at that point. He tried to carry us on his shoulders."
Blatche was at his best against Angola, when he put up 23 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 steals. However, the Philippines came up short, losing 84-81 in overtime.
"Those teams are really just too good for us," Guiao admitted.
In the same online seminar, Guiao called Blatche the "anchor" of the Gilas frontline, even though they also had players such as June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar.
"The problem is, 'yung big man ng other side is probably as good as he is, if not better," the coach said. "Although sometimes talaga, ang ganda ng nilalaro ni Andray."
"And what happens is, since they know he's our main man, he's going to get double-teamed, he's going to get a lot of bumps and pushes and hard fouls. So, he has to take a lot of that abuse from the other team because they know we rely a lot on him," he added.
This was what led to Blatche's ejection in the Philippines final game. After failing to draw a foul against Iran, Blatche kept complaining to the game officials and was given his first technical foul. He did not stop talking to the referee, however, and received another tech.
At the time, Guiao came to Blatche's defense and said he understood the player's frustration.
"Yung mga referees, hindi mo talaga maano kung ano 'yung gusto nilang mangyari. Hindi mo talaga mabasa," he said at the time.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas has said that they will move on from Blatche as the country's naturalized player, although he has expressed his desire to help the national team program in any way possible. In the meantime, both the SBP and Guiao have supported the formation of a pool of naturalized players, giving the country more leeway when making their choice for various tournaments.
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).