SBP awaiting Gilas Pilipinas commitment from Kai Sotto
Playing in the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup would be a dream come true for any player.
Even Jordan Clarkson knows this.
The Filipino-American, named the NBA’s top Sixth Man two seasons ago, has already given the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) the assurance that he will be available when called upon. As a matter of fact, he will be suiting up in a qualifying window this month.
And with unity among the sport’s stakeholders struck very recently, all players coming from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA), the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) and the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and even those playing in neighboring pro leagues in Asia have already given their commitments to be with the pool for a full three months leading to the global showcase.
Which makes Kai Sotto’s case quite ticklish.
The 7-foot-2 veteran of the Australian pro league has yet to tell the SBP of his intent, which does not sit well with the cage leadership headed by Al Panlilio.
“It’s a common rally—for the country to perform as best as it could on the floor and host the event as best as we could,” Panlilio told the Inquirer over the phone on Friday. “The PBA, the NCAA and the UAAP, they are all sacrificing for flag and country.”
With the powerful San Miguel Corp. (SMC) and Smart/PLDT blocs in the PBA practically merging to achieve that, Panlilio sees no reason for anyone to hold out.
And he wants to make it known that Gilas coaching staff headed by Chot Reyes with Tim Cone by his side will not bend over backwards for anyone who won’t give it his 100-percent.
“No one player is bigger than the program—bigger than the Philippine team,” Panlilio stressed as he made it clear that anyone who cannot be involved from Day 1 when the final preparations start will in no shape or form have a shot at making the team.
“We just want a better understanding of what his plans are,” Panlilio said when pressed about Sotto. “We want a commitment for all three months [leading to the World Cup]. Mahirap kung may exemptions.”
Another thing that screams of unity is the involvement of SMC sports director Alfrancis Chua, whom Panlilio said could help the national program a great deal.
“He’s a straight shooter who doesn’t beat around the bush,” Panlilio said of Chua, the architect of the SMC bloc’s dominant PBA success of the modern time.
At most, there will be 24 players named to the training pool, a collection of talent which will eat, train and play together for no less than 90 days before the World Cup opens in a year.
Clarkson’s inclusion could either be as a naturalized player or a Filipino, depending on how the appeal to the Fiba goes, and depending, of course, on the final composition of the team which would dictate what needs to be addressed.
Ange Kouame, who is recovering from a knee injury, is listed as a naturalized player for Gilas and Panlilio said they are considering the idea of enlisting another one to give coaching staff more options and a fallback in case one is injured.
“This is the biggest sporting event next year and we last hosted it in 1978,” Panlilio said. “We may never see this happen again in our lifetime, so the thing to do is give it our best shot.
“There are no ifs and buts about it.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.