Filipino wunderkind Kai Sotto will make his much-anticipated debut for Gilas Pilipinas when he suits up against South Korea in the Clark window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers on Wednesday (June 16).
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) made the announcement on Tuesday, setting up the 7-foot-3 big man's debut for the seniors team.
"We already told Kai that he will be part of the team and he was really thrilled," said Gilas Pilipinas program director and head coach Tab Baldwin.
Sotto, who recently underwent a 14-day quarantine period after arriving in the country last May 31, made the cut despite only having a few days of practice with the team. The coaching staff is convinced that the 19-year-old has prepared enough to thrive in the system.
"Kai was able to join us in a previous training bubble when we were preparing to play the games in Doha, Qatar. We accomplished a lot with him during that time but unfortunately those games were cancelled," Baldwin recalled.
"Naturally, we were worried about how much of that will stay with him but the coaching staff was pleased to find out that he has great retention of information. There is a solid foundation of knowledge from his past experience with us that helped him process the new information we introduced since then," the seasoned mentor continued.
Sotto headlines the 12-man contingent, which also has four other members set to make their seniors team debuts in SJ Belangel, RJ Abarrientos, Carl Tamayo, and newly-naturalized player Angelo Kouame.
Completing the cast are holdovers Justine Baltazar, Javi Gomez de Liaño, William Navarro, Mike Nieto, Dwight Ramos, Jaydee Tungcab, and freshly-minted team captain Isaac Go.
Cuts from the pool for the opening game in Clark are Jordan Heading, Geo Chiu, and Lebron Lopez.
Gilas sits atop the Group A standings with a 3-0 slate, a win away from an Asia Cup berth. Meanwhile, the Ra Gun-Ah-led South Korea holds a 2-0 card.
Ohmer Bautista is a sports journalist who has covered local and international sporting events in the Philippines. The views expressed are his own.
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