Following some injury concern on his back, Filipino sensation Kai Sotto is officially available once again for the national team, Gilas Pilipinas, much to the delight of rabid Pinoy hoop fans.
“Just to share, our doctors spoke yesterday to the doctors of Kai [Sotto], to the SBP doctors and he’s been cleared to play … What we wanted to do was to really put closure and also move forward and really just focus on the games. Our doctors met. The doctors of Kai and our doctor, doctor Randy Molo met and they’ve cleared him.”
While the final 12 will not be announced until Wednesday, August 23rd, it’s definitely good that Sotto is now expected to play in the upcoming warm-up games versus Ivory Coast, Montenegro, and Mexico later this week. It should give him ample chances to strengthen his case.
Pinoys have been anticipating the 21-year-old’s availability for months as the upcoming FIBA World Cup later this month involves a good deal of basketball glory. The tournament also has big names across the board, from NBA stars like Luka Doncic of Slovenia, Anthony Edwards of USA, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander of Canada, to veteran international hoopers such as Zhou Qi of China and Rudy Fernandez of Spain, among others.
Stretch big man and Minnesota Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns of the Dominican Republic is another name in the long list, and he’s someone to really look forward to since they are with Gilas under Group A, alongside Angola and Italy.
With all of his NBA-quality skills, Towns also presents one of the biggest obstacles, and it will be interesting to see how well Sotto can fare opposite the likes of the NBA All-Star.
More confident than ever?
As a 7’3 center that has shown flashes to be a modern big man, one that has a reliable range beyond the paint, it makes one wonder if the intense journey has been paying off, and to can it aid Gilas this time? After all, Sotto has bounced around the international circuit, playing good competition every time.
Aside from his stint with the Adelaide 36ers in the NBL (2021-2023) and current tenure with the Hiroshima Dragonfiles of the B.League (2023-present), Sotto has also got action during this year’s NBA Summer League with the Orlando Magic, albeit very short. On July 14th, he tallied six points, four rebounds, and three blocks in 13 minutes against the Portland Trail Blazers.
The appearances in Japan and USA also succeeded his past two Gilas stints. His recent national team outings were in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers last 2021, where he averaged 9.3 points and 7.0 rebounds in 18.9 minutes of play, and the FIBA World Cup qualifiers last year, which saw more production as he put up 13.2 points, 9.2 boards, and 2.7 blocks per game.
If he were to get a spot, Sotto will be working with a group that he has been familiar with, and that’s another thing in his favour. It’s a nice-looking pool that includes Utah Jazz guard Jordan Clarkson, who will replace Justin Brownlee as the token naturalized citizen, and a selection between June Mar Fajardo, Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar, Chris Newsome, Jamie Malonzo, CJ Perez, Calvin Oftana, RR Pogoy, Dwight Ramos, Ray Parks, brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Rhenz Abando and AJ Edu.
Any iteration within that list can help Sotto shine, whether through feeding him and helping take attention off him, both on the paint and outside. It should be fun, but let’s see if head coach Chot Reyes and his staff can cook something good for whichever team they set up.