Basketball is the Philippines biggest sport and for the first time in nearly 40 years, it will be in the FIBA World Cup later this year. So when Andray Blatche arrived in Manila overnight to become a Philippine citizen and join the national team, it was a big deal, a very big deal.
He's here! pic.twitter.com/77jBdnfRt4— Chot Reyes (@coachot) June 8, 2014
He was greeted by the national team coach, Chot Reyes at the airport, and appeared with him on Philippines TV. Reyes' tweet that Blatche had arrived was retweeted and favorited hundreds of times. Blatche, who had never been to the country before, was pictured in Manila newspapers sampling Philippines delicacies.
"It was an amazing opportunity for me to come here, to learn your culture and to represent y’all," said Blatche in a short press conference after his arrival. "I was very thankful the first time I heard about it. I was excited, I pretty much jumped on it and I was all for it," he added.
The 6'11" Blatche will provide something Filipinos haven't had before: a big body.
"Look, we need size," Reyes said. "We're the shortest team in Asia. The last time I looked, we don’t have a 6-foot-11 guy who can shoot the three, run the floor, and block shots like he does."
Blatche's trip is basically the final piece in his acquiring Filipino citizenship. The bill to naturalize him and give him dual citizenship has passed both houses of Congress and only needs the President's signature, which at one point was considered a formality. But 10 days after the passage of the bill. Ninoy Acquino has yet to sign it or even comment on it
Blatche will meet members of Congress Monday and be headed back to the US in a few days.