Kai Sotto commits to Gilas for February window, will arrive this week
The good news: Kai Sotto has committed to play for Gilas Pilipinas in its coming Fiba Asia window late next month.
Another piece of a great development: Most Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) players on the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas’ (SBP) wish list have expressed willingness to join the pool in the bubble.
Here’s the sad part: Travel restrictions by so many countries in the world could effectively shelve the tournament all together even as the leadership of SBP is scrambling double time to make the Feb. 18 to 22 meet that also includes South Korea and Indonesia happen.
“It’s a two-way concern,” SBP president Al Panlilio told the Inquirer over the phone on Tuesday, referring to the travel ban imposed on certain countries because of the coronavirus pandemic. “Other countries are wary, too. Those are the parameters we are all trying to address. That’s the challenge.”
Countries have issued travel restrictions restricting their citizens from going to certain countries, so it’s not only the Philippines which has issued bans from nationals of certain countries from entering.
“We are working closely with government and we are very appreciative of all the help it has been extending,” Panlilio went on. “We will abide by what government dictates and we will not violate any rules with regards to the health crisis.”
Panlilio said that his agency has already advised the governing Fiba (International Basketball Federation) of what’s happening. “There are a lot of moving parts here,” he said.
Meanwhile, the SBP boss said that Sotto, despite being under contract with his NBA G League squad that is set to compete in a bubble tournament opening at the same time as the Fiba window, has given assurance that he will play for the Philippines in games slated against South Korea on Feb. 18 and 22 and Indonesia on the 20th at Angeles University Foundation.
The 7-foot-2 Sotto is slated to arrive this week barring any unforeseen circumstances and he will be joined by at least 15 PBA players who have expressed willingness to enter another bubble starting on Jan. 22.
There were more PBA players that the SBP actually wanted, but injuries have prompted a handful of them from joining.
The Philippines wants to assemble its strongest team possible with the Koreans reportedly taking in their A-Team led by naturalized player Ra Gun-ah, also known as Ricardo Ratliffe, the former Purefoods import in the PBA who has taken up full-time Korean residence and plays for the Jeonju KCC Egis in Korean Basketball League.
Team Philippines needs to win just one of those three matches to march on to the regional championship in August, where Angelo Kouame of Ateneo is expected to have been naturalized and be eligible to see action as a Filipino starting there.
June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel Beer, though given the go-signal to return from a year-long layoff because of a shin injury, will not be playing for Gilas next month like Jayson Castro, the TNT franchise player who limped out in the second game of the Philippine Cup Finals last month in Angeles.
Troy Rosario and RR Pogoy of TNT and CJ Perez of Terrafirma are among the reported shoo-ins in the new PH five. INQ
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