The cascade of boos that rain down on Andray Blatche at Verizon Center has been well documented. But the Wizards forward’s mother knows that there is another group of fans outside of the arena who love her son.
Angela Blatche — or Miss Angie, as some Verizon Center employees call her — pointed to a recent visit to D.C. as an example.
“We went to the wax museum and we were walking down the street when I was visiting him and a bus driver literally stopped his bus and said, ‘keep your head up, Blatche,’” Angela said during a lengthy phone conversation from her home in South Carolina. “I remember an old lady a couple of weeks ago who walked up and poked him in the stomach and said, “You keep your head up. Just play.’”
“It was tough the first couple of time I been booed,” he told me. “I had a lot of talks with my mom. Me and her talk every day. She came to town and she seen all the booing that was happening. We had a long talk after the game at home.”
Angela remembers that night well.
“When I get out of the car in the garage [at Verizon Center] and I come up the stairs, I feel like I’m walking through my house. I feel like I’m at home,” she said. “And when I went out to the game and I sat in my seat, when Andray touched the ball and I heard the fans boo, I can’t even tell you what my insides felt like. I was so upset, because I know where my son’s heart is.”
The conversation between the two that first night still sticks with Blatche.
“She said, ‘They’re booing you because they know the potential that you have, the type of player that you can be,’” Blatche said. “She feels like I’m not doing everything I can do to be that player and I need to work harder and stay more focused. She said it’s no one’s fault but my own. It hurt a little, but sometimes you need the truth.”
Before his most recent benching, Blatche was shooting just 38 percent from the floor. That combined with lingering injuries have forced him to sit out almost half of this season’s games.
There was a time, though, when negativity wasn’t even a factor in Andray’s game. A standout player in high school, he was used to having the support of the fans.
“Dray is a very emotional person,” Angela said. “He loves to hear praise. He loves to hear, ‘You did a good job. I appreciate what you did.’ The negativity is the stuff that he holds inside of him.”
Blatche does charity work in his hometowns in New York and South Carolina, but he also gives his time to D.C. He’s handed out turkeys for the holidays, donated shoes and visited military bases. He works with wounded warriors and said he plans on renovating some of the local neighborhood basketball courts this summer.
But Blatche admits that the charity work doesn’t make up for his lack of production on the court. Angela knows that there was a time in his life that her son had it together, and she said she just wants to see him in that place again.
“She just told me, ‘Just remember what got you where you at. Go back to being a humble kid and loving person you was. All the hard work you put in when you was in high school to get to the league, become that person again,’” Blatche said. “That’s why I be in the gym so late. When I was younger I played basketball every minute I get, every chance I got. That’s why I be in the gym so late now.”
The late nights in the gym will take care of the conditioning, but the mental focus might be a little harder to come by. While Blatche’s mom doesn’t know what will eventually get him there, she’s convinced it will happen.
“Yes, he is wounded by this and probably very much disappointed,” Angela said. “But he will fight through this and he will definitely get over this.”