Andray Blatche’s Journey from New York to Gilas Pilipinas

There are three dates that will probably rank high among “most memorable moments” for Brooklyn Nets center Andray Blatche.

The first one is June 28, 2005 – the date of the 2005 NBA Draft.

The different stages of Andray Blatche.

Blatche declared relatively early for the NBA, bypassing the collegiate route after he shone as a high school phenom. In his first few years playing high school ball, Blatche was a student-athlete at Heninger High in Syracuse, New York. With his nearly nine-foot standing reach, 7’2 wingspan, and guard-forward skills, Blatche dominated on the court and was named to the All-State team in 2004. He moved to South Kent Prep in Connecticut for his senior year and continued to shine, norming 24 points and 18 boards per outing. For his efforts, the Syracuse Orangemen and Connecticut Huskies expressed interest in recruiting him for the US NCAA.

Blatche’s coach at South Kent, Raphael Chillious, described the 6’11 hybrid slotman as a, “cross between Kevin Garnett and Danny Manning.”

Big words, sure, but nobody could blame coach Chillious. I mean, Blatche was phenomenal on the hardwood. In his final high school game, Blatche played just 17 minutes because of foul trouble, but he still managed to score 31 points and lead the Cardinals to a 71-64 victory over the St. Thomas More varsity. At this point in his high school career, college scouts were no longer attending his games, knowing full well Blatche’s intent to make the prep-to-pro jump. Instead, the South Kent bleachers were warmed by several NBA scouts who thought the New York native might just be good enough to warrant a risky first round pick.

A young Andray Blatche was evaluated as a high school
phenom back in 2004 and 2005.
(image from

If Blatche were to be picked, it would be the second straight year South Kent produced a bona fide NBAer as Dorell Wright, who was once a Cardinal and also played under Chillious, was chosen in the first round of the 2004 draft.

But was Blatche ready?

“Nobody is ever really 100 percent ready for the NBA. Some of the best players, it takes a long time to get used to it. But is he gifted? Does he have the potential and the ability? There is no question,” said Chillious in a past interview.

At around 7:30pm on June 28, 2005 at the Madison Square Garden in Blatche’s native New York City, David Stern took to the podium to announce the draft picks. Australia’s Andrew Bogut, after impressing in the 2004 Athens Olympics, was chosen number one overall, followed by Marvin Williams, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, and Raymond Felton in the top five.

When the sixth overall pick was about to be announced, the Portland Trail Blazers chose the very first high school player in that edition of that draft, but it was not Blatche. It was Martell Webster, a 6’7 wingman from Seattle Prep School.  

So many other guys were chosen afterwards, including future All-Stars Andrew Bynum, Danny Granger, and David Lee, but there were also guys who would never even see a lick of NBA action, like Fran Vazquez of Spain, Ricky Sanchez of Puerto Rico, and Erazem Lorbek of Slovenia. And aside from Webster and Bynum, other prep stars were then chosen one by one – Gerald Green from Gulf Shores Academy, CJ Miles from Skyline High School, Monta Ellis from Lanier High School, and Lou Williams of South Gwinnett High School.

When David Stern went up to announce the 48th pick of the draft, once again, Blatche was bypassed. This time it was current French national team mainstay Mickael Gelabale chosen by the Supersonics.  Gelabale was a 6’7 swingman who would eventually play two seasons in Seattle and one in Minnesota. His career NBA numbers are: 4.6 points and 2.3 rebounds per game while shooting 47% from the field.

Up next were the Washington Wizards, who chose 7’3 Puerto Rican Peter John Ramos in the previous draft. That didn’t work out too well, and Washington was looking to just get someone respectable for their only pick of the 2005 draft.

They took a chance on Blatche.

At first, things didn’t play out too well, too. Blatche split time with Roanoke Dazzle of the D-League and the Wizards, averaging just 2.3 points and 1.3 rebounds in his first pro season. Needless to say, this was not the kind of production expected of a New York high school phenom.

Andray Blatche playing in the summer league for Washington.
(image by Jim Hlavac/Draft Express)

Perhaps, though, the reason for this could be traced to another memorable date in Blatche’s life – September 25, 2005. Just three months after being selected by the Washington Wizards, Blatche was in a car driving around his then home neighborhood of Alexandra, Virginia. A van was tailing the car and, while on a stop, two masked men emerged from the van and attempted a carjacking. Blatche was told to exit the car, but then he was shot in the upper body before he could even get out.

The bullet pierced his chest, but, thankfully, it didn’t hit any vital organs.

Blatche was hospitalized, recovered really well, and was released a couple of days after. Three days after the shooting incident, he could already walk on his own, but he still wasn’t fit enough to attend Washington’s training camp. As a remote result, Blatche played in only 29 games for the Wizards, and he barely made any kind of impact.

For a long time, Blatche was all-potential and low-impact.
(image from

Fast forward to May 10, 2014. The Brooklyn Nets were down 0-2 against bitter rival Miami in the second round of the NBA Playoffs. Despite being the only team to beat the Heat 4-0 in the regular season, Brooklyn struggled to contain LeBron James and Miami’s other stars. A third straight loss would all but seal the Nets’ unfortunate fate.

Blatche was averaging a paltry 2 points per game in this series. He played a total of just 17 minutes and shot 1/4 from the field. In Game 3, however, he broke out in a big way. Blatche unloaded one of his best games of the season, schooling the Heat frontline for 15 points and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes of play as Brooklyn blasted Miami, 104-90, in the Barclays Center. He followed this up with a solid 8-point, 8-rebound performance in Game 4, though the Nets lost, 96-102, and fell into a 1-3 series hole.

Andray Blatche broke out in Game 3.
(image by Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images)

Hardly anybody close to the Nets organization was really surprised by Blatche’s strong showing.

“The big thing about this team is that we trust everyone,” said Nets coach Jason Kidd after Game 3. “And what Dray did for us off the bench was big.”

In nine NBA seasons, Blatche has done pretty well for himself, averaging about 10 points and 5 boards per game. He has played in a total of 27 postseason games and has put up respectable numbers, too.

In fact, if we were to re-pick the 2005 NBA Draft in terms of current value, Blatche would be 15th instead of 49th.

Not bad for a guy many overlooked and was amnestied by the Wizards in 2012.

And the last “memorable” date for Blatche? Probably January 30, 2014.

On that day Blatche confirmed to various Philippine media outlets that he was, in fact, sent feelers by Gilas Pilipinas to play for the Philippines in the 2014 FIBA World Cup and that he was actually interested. This was first reported by Mike Mazzeo of ESPN New York, and it was initially received with jest.

Asked if he knew Blatche was Filipino, shooting guard teammate Joe Johnson joked, “I know he’s full of s---.”

Right now, however, nobody thinks this a joke anymore. As of this writing, Blatche is officially a naturalized Filipino. He has just visited Manila, touched bases with some members of Gilas Pilipinas, ate (and loved) kare-kare and halu-halo, attended a PBA game date, worn a polo barong, and even had a picture taken with Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. By all intents and purposes, Blatche’s playing for the Philippines is all set and ready to go. By all intents and purposes, he is now one of us.

"I am very excited to play for the Philippines, and I thank everyone for making this once in a lifetime chance happen," Blatche told Agence France-Presse. "I will do my best to help my team."

And how will he help Gilas Pilipinas?

"He will give inside presence with his size, and he has that special skill-set peculiar for a big guy – he has outside shooting ability and can put the ball on the floor," said Gilas coach Chot Reyes.

Right off the bat, he will anchor the middle. He will be an imposing presence on the low block and can occasionally space the floor from the wings. His career NBA shooting numbers are: 46% from the field and 23% from long distance (okay, maybe not so impressive from rainbow country, but keep in mind that the FIBA three-point distance is shorter than the NBA’s).

Blatche offers a versatile skill-set to Gilas Pilipinas.
(image by Glenn James/Getty Images)

But beyond the numbers and his size, perhaps the most exciting things about Blatche are: (1) his roller-coaster history and how this parallels our own as a country and as a national basketball team, and (2) the fact that he is passionate about the game of basketball.

"What I've learned so far is that people here love basketball," Blatche recently commented. "That means a lot. I would love to be part of a culture like that. They remind me of myself, live and breathe basketball. That is something I stand behind. Something I want to have myself a part of."

Will he average 20-10 lines again like he did as a New York high school phenom?

Will he battle any possible setbacks and help the Philippines do well in the World Cup and the Asian Games in the same way he battled back after being picked 49th overall and after getting shot?

Will he truly embrace being a true Filipino?

Those are the next big questions in the journey of Andray Blatche from Big Apple baller to being the new main man in Manila. We’ll just have to wait and see what the answers are going to be.

This much, at least, though, is for sure:

“I am Filipino now.”

The newest Filipino on the block.
(image from Solar Sports Desk)

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3 Comment

tae my outside shooting pla ? wow eh prang pennisi pla toh kaso nga lng impressive ung paint moves ng player n to assttttttttiiiiiiiiiggg


definitely one of the up and coming sports writers mr flojo. good job


Gold dapat sa Asian Games pero mahihirapan sa World cup.