Filipino wunderkind Kai Sotto is set for his much-anticipated debut with the Gilas Pilipinas in the opening game against old tormentor South Korea in the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers on Wednesday, June 16.

/ 16 June 2021

The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) confirmed the development on Tuesday that Gilas will be including Sotto for his debut with the senior’s team.

“We already told Kai that he will be part of the team and he was really thrilled,” said Gilas Pilipinas program director and head coach Tab Baldwin.

The 7-foot-3 Sotto has made the cut of the 12-man roster of Gilas Pilipinas to see action and hopefully break the curse against rival South Korea despite having to catch up since his arrival from the US due to strict quarantine protocols. 

“Kai was able to join us in a previous training bubble when we were preparing to play the games in Doha, Qatar. We accomplished a lot with him during that time but unfortunately those games were cancelled,” the seasoned mentor recalled. 

“Naturally, we were worried about how much of that will stay with him but the coaching staff was pleased to find out that he has great retention of information. There is a solid foundation of knowledge from his past experience with us that helped him process the new information we introduced since then,” he continued.

Sotto, who was among the 15 players that arrived in the Clark bubble last Sunday, will be teamed up with second window standouts Dwight Ramos, Justine Baltazar, and Javi Gomez de Liano.

Also to make his long-awaited Gilas seniors debut on Wednesday is Ange Kouame, who will play for the Filipino squad as a naturalized player. His registration was approved by FIBA last week after securing his Philippine passport. 

Completing the lineup are holdovers William Navarro, Mike Nieto, Jaydee Tungcab, and team captain Isaac Go, who was appointed on Monday night, replacing fellow 2019 Gilas draftee Rey Suerte due to an ankle injury. 

Cuts from the pool for the opening game in Clark are Jordan Heading, Geo Chiu, and Lebron Lopez.

Gilas Pilipinas holds a 3-0 card, a win away to formally qualify for the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup while the Ra Gun-Ah-led South Korea has a 2-0 standing.