THERE'S no assurance that Kai Sotto will be playing for Gilas Pilipinas in the third and final window of the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers in Clark from June 16 to 20.
Ryan Gregorio, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) special assistant to the president, confirmed the Filipino wunderkind is scheduled to arrive late Monday but admitted there's no guarantee the 7-foot-3 center will be lining up for the Philippine team in the Clark qualifiers
"We have to play it by ear," he said. "He has to go through quarantine as mandated by government."
Upon his arrival in the country, Sotto must register a negative RT-PCR test and clear the government-mandated 14-day quarantine, meaning the earliest he can join the team is on June 14, two days before Gilas' first game against Korea.
SBP program director Tab Baldwin, in previous interviews, also reiterated Sotto needs to join the Gilas buildup before any tournament.
What's unclear, though, is if Sotto will still join the Gilas pool in Clark even in a reserve role as he reunites with the rest of the youth-laden pool which he trained with early in the year before the qualifiers were postponed.
As for the SBP, the important thing is that Sotto is already in the country and can join the team practices in June.
"What's important is he is already in town. His schedule is still very much fluid," Gregorio said.
Without the 19-year-old Sotto, Gilas will be leaning on its new naturalized player Ange Kouame to man the paint in the Clark qualifiers as it plays Korea on June 16 and 20, and Indonesia on June 18.
Still, Sotto is poised to see action with the national team in the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade this July and the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup in Indonesia this August before joining his new Australian club Adelaide 36ers for the 2021-22 season of the National Basketball League (NBL).