Sotto arrival boosts Gilas

The strongest, most solid Gilas Pilipinas squad is nearing completion as Kai Sotto is set to arrive late Thursday to join the preparation for the fourth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas executive director Sonny Barrios confirmed Sotto’s arrival to Daily Tribune, saying that the 7-foot-3 wunderkind is set to land at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport from Adelaide unless a late cancellation or major disaster happens.

Barrios, also the SBP spokesperson, said Sotto will just take a breather to brush off the jetlag brought by the eight-hour travel before joining Gilas pool in its training at the Meralco Gym on Friday.

After Sotto, it would be National Basketball Association player Jordan Clarkson’s turn to arrive.

Clarkson, who will play as a naturalized player, will be checking in on Friday from Salt Lake City to formally complete the pool that will face Lebanon in Beirut on 25 August and Saudi Arabia in Pasay City on 29 August.

Barrios said they couldn’t wait to have Sotto and Clarkson on board.

“Yes, he will be arriving on the 18th. I think he will be arriving in the evening,” Barrios told Daily Tribune in a text message, referring to Sotto, who just struck a fresh deal with the Adelaide 36ers in the National Basketball League of Australia.

“Not sure yet if he will immediately attend practice. We’ll still see, he might be exhausted (from traveling).”

Sotto will lead Gilas Pilipinas’ frontcourt for the first time in more than a year.

The 20-year-old big man last played in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying tournament in Belgrade, Serbia after a stint in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in Clark.

He was a part of Tab Baldwin’s youthful rotation that also featured naturalized big men Ange Kouame, Geo Chiu, Justin Baltazar and Carl Tamayo.

Now, Sotto will be reuniting with former teammates and Gilas mainstays Dwight Ramos, Tamayo and Lebron Lopez.

The former Ateneo de Manila University standout was invited by the federation for the FIBA Asia Cup last month, but he declined as he had to plot new plans after getting undrafted in the National Basketball Association Annual Rookie Draft in June.

His failed bid in the draft forced him to leave his former agent Joel Bell to switch to distinguished Los Angeles-based sports agency Wasserman and rejoin the 36ers.

Although Sotto is already expected to be a shoo-in for the final roster, he will still have to prove his worth against fellow Gilas call-ups in June Mar Fajardo of San Miguel Beer, Ian Sangalang of Magnolia, Raymond Almazan of Meralco and Roosevelt Adams of Terrafirma.

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