FIRST it was head coach Chot Reyes and now, it’s basketball association president Al Panlilio who seems to have lost enthusiasm in a towering Kai Sotto presence in the national men’s basketball team.
“I don’t know anything about his [Sotto] plans and it’s really up to him,” Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Panlilio told BusinessMirror on Wednesday. “If he has a lot of plans, it’s up to him. “
Reyes hinted on Monday of the possibility of a Gilas Pilipinas to the FIBA World Cup without the 7-foot-2 Sotto
“With all the uncertainty surrounding the Kai Sotto situation…if he’s not going to be available, we have to think about that,” Reyes said.“You just cannot come and show up and be on the team,” Reyes said. “It doesn’t matter who you are, you have to be part of the preparation.”
Sotto didn’t suit up—nor did he come home to practice with the Gilas pool—for the Lebanon and Jordan games in the sixth and final window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Sotto declared his plans to pursue his National Basketball Association (NBA) dream by trying his luck in the NBA Summer League Camp in. He used to play for the Adelaide 36ers in the Australia National Basketball League and signed up with the Hiroshima Dragonflies in the Japan B.League.
Panlilio echoed Reyes’s desire for players to commit themselves to Gilas.
“He [Kai] and all the other players must practice together for a longer time,” Panlilio said. “They should make a commitment that they would join the team’s three to four months of preparation and training if they want to play for Gilas.”
He said that the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) has committed itself to the World Cup campaign by sacrificing its Season 47 schedule.
“I think that’s the purpose why the PBA is stopping to make way for the World Cup preparation of our national team and really form the best combination,” Panlilio said. “We have to build a cohesive band of 12 players who will play at least five games of competitive international basketball.”
Panlilio noted that Utah Jazz combo guard Jordan Clarkson pledged to be available for the World Cup that the Philippines is co-hosting with Japan and Indonesia from August 25 to September 10.
“As early as June or July [last year], Jordan Clarkson already committed for the World Cup,” he said. “There is a three- to four-month of window preparations and training, where we also considered playing in several pocket tournaments before the World Cup.”
The Filipino-American Clarkson, however, qualifies as a naturalized player under FIBA rules.
On Reyes’s proposition to get another foreigner who’s at least 6-foot-10, Panlilio said it would take a lot of effort to complete naturalization procedures.
Newly-naturalized Justin Brownlee played true to form against Lebanon and Jordan—he and Clarkson are 6-foot-5. The other naturalized player, Ange Kouame, is 6-foot-10 but lacks experience in FIBA play.