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    Panlilio wants Kai Sotto to be with Gilas a month before tourneys

    Apr 21, 2021

    LOGISTICS have yet to be ironed out for Kai Sotto's stint with Gilas Pilipinas, but Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio is hopeful that the 7-foot-3 center will have enough time to build chemistry with the youthful pool.

    "Obviously, Kai's heart, he wants to put the flag on his chest and really represent the country. But we also want him to not come too late," he said on Wednesday.

    "At the end of the day, the reason why we embarked on this cadet program is to have some sort of continuity and we can practice longer together. It's very stressful enough that these are young men playing with older men, especially when you hit the OQT and the Fiba Asia qualifiers. As much time as we can have with Kai, maybe a month before all the competitions start, hopefully we can have Kai here."

    Sotto reiterated his commitment with the national team program and pledged that he will play for the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade come July and the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup in Indonesia in August.

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    Panlilio added that the next few tournaments will be "critical" not just for Sotto but for the other young guns in the pool as Gilas lays down the foundation for its team in the 2023 Fiba World Cup.

    "I think for the sake of Kai and for the sake of the team, we'd like them to be together longer, a month at least, to make sure everybody knows what to do," he said.

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    One thing working in Gilas' favor is that everyone's on board in making the national stint a reality, starting with the third window of the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers in Clark in June.

    "These are things that we're discussing with Kai and his management group and obviously, there's tremendous commitment on everybody's part to make everything work," said program director Tab Baldwin.

    "But there's a lot of boxes that needs to be ticked and in this environment that we're in with the world today, with the pandemic, the quarantines, the lockdowns, trying to get through all the red tapes and fitting schedules together, it isn't easy."

    "Everybody should know that everybody has the best intentions to make it work and Kai has the passion to play for Gilas. Without being able to give specifics, we're all working towards that: the final dates, the final decisions, but they haven't been made so there's nobody that can give you those. This is all very fresh so with the Adelaide group, with East West, with Joel (Bell), and with the SBP, we've got to get our heads together for what's best for Kai. And Kai's got to drive his own agendas with his passion to play for the country and securing his future."

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      For Sotto's part, as overwhelming as these recent developments are, all he cares about is to improve his game as he continues to train in Miami.

      "As coach Tab said, it's all fresh with a lot of things being announced na ngayon lang," he said.

      "I'm still on the process of adjusting to everything pero after ng lahat ng yan, I'm still here, focusing sa pagtetraining ko sa Miami and kung ano man mangyari sa mga susunod na araw at susunod na weeks, paghahandaan natin yun."

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