By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
KAI Sotto will play for Gilas Pilipinas in the third and final window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers (ACQ) next month.
This was announced by the 7’3” Sotto himself in an Instagram video post, saying that he is heading back home soon to play for the national team in the ACQ window set for Feb. 18 to 22 at Clark City in Angeles, Pampanga.
“I’m heading home soon. I’m very excited that I’m given the opportunity to play for Gilas in the February window. I would like to thank all those who have supported me and believed in my dream of playing for the country and eventually in the NBA,” said Mr. Sotto in Filipino.
Initially, the young prospect’s status to play for Gilas in the window was deemed a long shot since he is currently in the United States as part of the Ignite team in the National Basketball Association (NBA) G League.
Mr. Sotto went to the US in 2019 to pursue his dream of making it to the NBA.
The NBA G League is set to begin its “bubble” tournament in February in Orlando and with Mr. Sotto playing for Gilas he is set to miss matches for Ignite.
For the third FIBA ACQ window, 18-year-old Sotto will be joining a team composed of a mix of Gilas cadet members and Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) players.
It will mark the first time that he will play for the seniors team after many tours of duty for the youth squad.
Gilas is currently at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna, holding its training under strict health and safety protocols to guard against the spread of the coronavirus.
Cadet players already in the bubble since last week are Justine Baltazar, Javi Gomez de Liaño, Dave Ildefonso, Will Navarro, Calvin Oftana, Kemark Cariño, and naturalized player candidate Angelo Kouame.
They are joined by PBA player Kiefer Ravena, CJ Perez and Justin Chua, as well as Gilas PBA draft picks Isaac Go, Rey Suerte, Matt and Mike Nieto.
Set to join any time now are cadets Dwight Ramos and Juan Gomez de Liaño and pros Troy Rosario, Roger Pogoy, and Raul Soyud.
Once he arrives in the country, Mr. Sotto will have to observe quarantine procedures first before he gets to join the team in training.
In the ACQ, the Philippines currently leads Group A with an unblemished record of 3-0 and six points. Second running is Korea (2-0), followed by Indonesia (1-2) and Thailand (0-3).
Korea, however, was slapped sanctions by FIBA for failing to send a team in the second window in Manama, Bahrain, last November, and its ranking points in the tournament is to be affected.
Gilas is to play three games in February window — two against Korea (Feb. 18 and 22) and one versus Indonesia (Feb. 20).
In the qualifiers, the top two teams for each group in the end book an outright spot in the Asia Cup later this year in Indonesia.