Sotto’s stint with Gilas Pilipinas dims after scrubbed PH hosting
Kai Sotto’s stint with Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba Asia qualifiers will hinge on whether the international basketball federation (Fiba) can find an alternative country to host the third window in the same schedule as the scrapped Philippine staging.
But the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is still flying in the 7-foot-3 prodigy in the hopes that Sotto can train with the national pool and sponge up the system that is being put in place by the coaching staff.
“It’s not a lost cause,” SBP president Al Panlilio told the Inquirer over the phone on Wednesday.
Sotto’s stint with the national five, something the teenager had been looking forward to with unbridled excitement, hit a major hitch when the Philippines’ hosting of the third window was scrapped due to travel restrictions meant to control the outbreak of the new coronavirus variant.
Under the initial deal okayed by his management squad and Sotto’s National Basketball Association G League squad Ignite, the former Ateneo high school star would suit up for the third window scheduled on Feb. 18 to 22 and then fly back to the United States on Feb. 24. Ignite is joining a G League tournament whose schedule conflicts with the qualifying window.
“It’s just too bad that we had to cancel [the hosting]. But Kai will still have the chance to get to know his teammates because we are looking past this window,” Panlilio said. “If he can stay (for the rescheduled games), then great. If he can’t, I completely understand.”
Sources told the Inquirer that Qatar has already volunteered to host the third window for Groups A and C, but can only do so in March. Qatar also shouldered Japan’s Group B and D hosting, which was also scrubbed due to the pandemic. That window will be played on Feb 18 to 22.
If Fiba awards the hosting to Qatar, that would create a predicament for Sotto since it would be impossible to hold the Group C window at the same time. But Panlilio said there is still much to gain even if Sotto only practices with the national pool.
“[Coming over] will still give him a chance to know his teammates, get to learn the Gilas system,” said Panlilio, the president of Smart Communications who believes that Sotto would be a great role model for the youth and endorser of his company’s products. “Even if he doesn’t play an official game, he can get a feel of his teammates who could also be in the Gilas squad in [the] 2023 [World Cup].”
Sotto is scheduled to board the first flight home once legal tweaks are finalized with his management team, East West Private.
The Philippines was supposed to host Groups A and C and would have played the South Koreans twice and Indonesia once, seeking to win just one game in order to make the tournament proper in August.
The national pool continues to train in a bubble in Laguna province as it awaits word on the new window schedule.
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