Jordan Clarkson, Kai Sotto to miss Gilas’ Euro camp
Gilas Pilipinas will likely be without its best player and its most towering presence when it leaves the country in just over a week to bond in Europe and play a series of exhibition games with other countries also seeing action in the Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup.
The Filipinos will test their worth against Estonia and Lithuania later this month, and the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) on Friday afternoon said it is bracing for the absences of NBA star Jordan Clarkson and seven-foot-three big man Kai Sotto as the team ramps up preparations for the global meet in August.
“Except for Clarkson, who has one more year left in his contract with the Utah Jazz and is reportedly looking to either negotiate a new deal or test the free (agent) market, and Sotto, who is eyeing a stint in the NBA Summer League, the active players in the pool are on call for scheduled pre-World Cup pocket tournaments,” the SBP said.
Playing in the World Cup could be seen by the Clarkson camp as an unnecessary risk with millions up for a new deal with Utah or free agency, while Sotto is reportedly set to join the New York Knicks mini camp as he tries to fulfill his dream of becoming the first homegrown Filipino to make it to the NBA.
National coach Chot Reyes, in a previous interview with the Inquirer, said that he is hoping to have Sotto or anyone else at least a month before the World Cup, which will run from Aug. 25 through Sept. 10.
Almost a year ago, the SBP said that Clarkson had committed to join Gilas’ preparations at least six weeks before the tournament.
Compared to Sotto’s availability, the Clarkson situation is a bit trickier as it greatly influences which naturalized player coaching staff will tap for the battles against the Dominican Republic, Angola, Italy—and more should it get past the group phase.
Aside from Clarkson, Justin Brownlee and Ange Kouame are the other naturalized players on the team.
A slew of friendlies against the national squads of Estonia, Finland, and Latvia are also penciled for Gilas around late June, while contests against pro clubs in Lithuania are still being arranged.
Team manager Butch Antonio said earlier this week that Gilas is looking to bring 15 players to Europe and have more from the 21-man pool join the fray as the build-up intensifies.
Joining Clarkson and Sotto in the pool are two-time World Cuppers Japeth Aguilar and June Mar Fajardo, and fellow Philippine Basketball Association stars Scottie Thompson, CJ Perez, Roger Pogoy, Poy Erram, Jamie Malonzo, Chris Newsome and Calvin Oftana.
Also in the bunch are overseas standouts Dwight Ramos, Bobby Ray Parks, Jr., Carl Tamayo, Jordan Heading, Thirdy and Kiefer Ravena, and Rhenz Abando.
Six-foot-10 Batang Gilas ace AJ Edu rounds out the cast from which the 12-man squad is going to be built.
Gilas reconvened last Wednesday at Meralco Gym and is reportedly looking to resume practices behind the closed doors of Inspire Sports Academy in Laguna Monday.