With Sotto and Clarkson aboard, fans can get a glimpse possible Gilas Pilipinas’ World Cup team
This basketball-crazed nation can have a first look at what could be the Philippines’ Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup team for next year after Kai Sotto confirmed his inclusion to the Gilas Pilipinas squad set to take part in Window 4 of the Qualifiers later this month.
In a statement and after much haggling, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) said “Kai Sotto is joining the Gilas Pilipinas” team for the Aug. 25 clash with Lebanon in Beirut and against Saudi Arabia at Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City four days later.
And with Utah Jazz star Jordan Clarkson already on board, this Gilas crew could basically have the same look as that of the team set to compete in the global showcase next year as the Philippines, Japan and Indonesia co-host.
Clarkson, because of the schedule of the next National Basketball Association (NBA) season, won’t be available for Windows 5 and 6, set in November this year and in February 2023.
“We are glad to have Kai into the Gilas fold and thank him for his proactive response to the call to play for flag and country for the August Qualifiers,” SBP executive director and spokesperson Sonny Barrios said in the statement.
Clarkson and Sotto are expected to figure prominently in the World Cup roster, and with the likes of Dwight Ramos, Ray Parks Jr. and Carl Tamayo expected to join the windows, Gilas Pilipinas could slowly give a glimpse of how the team would look like in the global Fiba showcase.
Playing in the window and in succeeding tournaments is the requirement that the SBP, through its president Al Panlilio, has given Sotto to fulfill to be considered for the World Cup team.
Panlilio also told the Inquirer in a report last week that if Sotto cannot commit to “being with the team for three months leading to the World Cup” that there will be no way for him to make the team.
Clarkson, voted as the NBA Sixth Man of the Year two seasons ago, has reportedly committed to being with Gilas six weeks before the World Cup and will see action as a naturalized player after appeals for his case with the Fiba were all turned down.
Clarkson has had a stint with Gilas Pilipinas before, under Yeng Guiao during the Asian Games in Jakarta in 2018 where he showcased how much he can help the squad.
Sotto will plane in from Australia on Aug. 18. He recently re-signed with the Adelaide 36ers for the National Basketball League after not being selected in the last NBA Draft.
With Clarkson as a naturalized player and the 6-foot-10 Ange Kouame left out, Gilas needs all the big men it can get for the World Cup. And after unity was struck among all of the sport’s stakeholders two weeks ago, coach Chot Reyes will have a large pool of talent to dip his hands into.
Japan B.League stars Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena will also be available, along with AJ Edu, the phenom recovering from a knee injury.
The Philippines last saw action in the World Cup in 2014 in Seville, Spain, also under Reyes. That squad, led by the naturalized Andray Blatche, won a classification round match, a thrilling 81-79 overtime win over Senegal.