PLAIN and simple, Gilas Pilipinas would love to have Kai Sotto around in every single international tournament it competes in.
But his availability is something Gilas can't control.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) program director Tab Baldwin said the door is always open for the young Filipino center to don the national colors. But he adds that the ball is always in the court of the Sotto camp.
The federation understands that with the prodigious teen chasing his NBA dream and fulfilling his obligations as a member of NBA G League team Ignite, his availability for Gilas will always be up in the air.
"I think that issue is in Kai’s court," Baldwin told Coaches Unfiltered. "Obviously, we welcome Kai and AJ (Edu) anytime they’re available and we look forward to them being with the team as much as possible."
"But that decision is I think with Kai and his team of people and where they see Gilas and his development, and how much they see Gilas as an endgame for them. Or whether the NBA is the only endgame that they are pursuing, and then everything becomes subservient to that."
Sotto is a cornerstone of the Gilas program moving forward, alongside Edu and the cadets who saw action in the second window of the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers in Manama last week.
Not only is he vying to become the first homegrown Filipino to be drafted in the NBA, he's also regarded as a shoo-in to the Gilas lineup come the 2023 Fiba World Cup which the country will co-host with Japan and Indonesia.
Baldwin hopes Sotto will be there, but acknowledged that it's a matter for Sotto and his handlers to decide.
"We would love Gilas to be a primary endgame for Kai. I remember talking with Kai and he always said that he loves to represent his country. So hopefully, it’s going to happen and hopefully, it’s going to happen more often than not," he said.
"But we just live in a world today where there are tug of wars going on for many players."