With qualifying games for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup now on once again, the country’s national team Gilas Pilipinas is now up to finish business with their fellow squads in Group A. As already reported days ago, they should have held the third window of the qualifiers in the Philippines itself, only for hosting duties to be cancelled due to travel bans to keep new cases of the UK strain of COVID to a minimum. Thankfully Qatar has proven a welcome alternate venue, with the competing teams making preparations. For Gilas, they are also getting reinforcements from elsewhere, a FIBA Under-16/17/19 player who is also in the NBA minor league.
CNN Philippines has it that Kai Sotto is up to return to the national basketball team in time for Gilas Pilipinas to finish off its Group-A matches in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers’ third window. The son of PBA veteran Ervin Sotto already has a standing commitment with Ignite, a team in the developmental NBA G League, with its season scheduled to begin at the Orlando, Florida NBA bubble. But he has answered the call for Gilas and departed from the US with his father this Monday, February 1.
This past Tuesday, February 2, president Al Panlilio of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) addressed a forum of the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) regarding Sotto’s arrival in the country that day. Of course, having come from overseas, the young basketball star must undergo mandatory quarantine that could last as long as seven days. If he clears post-quarantine swab test then Kai will head to the Gilas training bubble at Calamba, Laguna where he will have a week to train with his teammates before they depart for Doha, Qatar and the FIBA Asia qualifier matches that will start February 15.
Panlilio notes that the SBP has taken all efforts to ensure that Kai Sotto, a 7-foot-3 center, will have as much time as possible to train and play with the rest of Gilas Pilipinas before embarking on competition. He explains, “In basketball, you should already be studying how your teammates play and vice-versa, and you can only do that if you are able to practice with them.” There also appears to be a time limit on how long Sotto can stay, as his team on NBA G Ignite only allowed his FIBA participation under agreement that he return after March.
While Gilas only needs another Group A win to fully qualify for the FIBA Asia Cup in Indonesia this year, the SBP boss also asked national team fans not to put too much pressure on Kai to carry the squad, his NBA G status notwithstanding.
Image courtesy of Manila Bulletin