By REYNALD MAGALLON
Gilas Pilipinas will be without three of its most potent weapons when it flies for China for a pocket tournament on Tuesday, Aug. 1.
Kai Sotto, Jordan Clarkson and Scottie Thompson won’t be coming with the team leaving head coach Chot Reyes with only 13 players for its pocket tournament against Iran B and Senegal from Aug. 2 to 6.
Without the three, much of the load will be falling on the shoulders of Gilas mainstays June Mar Fajardo and Japeth Aguilar along with guys like Jamie Malonzo and Dwight Ramos.
Joining them are RR Pogoy, CJ Perez, AJ Edu, Chris Newsome, Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Rhenz Abando and Ray Parks.
Sotto, who has yet to join a single Gilas practice since returning from his stint in the NBA Summer League, is reportedly staying behind to undergo therapy for a nagging back injury.
The 7-foot-3 center attended Gilas tuneup games against Ateneo and Magnolia but only watched from the sidelines.
Reyes has repeatedly expressed his desire to have the 7-foot-3 center join the practice as early as possible to get him accustomed to his teammates.
Thompson, likewise, won’t be joining the crew as he was still nursing a fractured shooting hand which he sustained during Gilas’ Europe trip.
Clarkson, on the other hand will not anymore join the National team in China and instead will go straight to the country on Aug. 6.
The Nationals were also supposed to play Lebanon but it backed out prompting the change of schedules.Gilas will be playing Iran and Senegal in a double round robin format giving the Filipinos at least four games during the China trip.
The China tiff will be Gilas’ last pocket tournament before the World Cup although it already secured a couple more tuneup games against Mexico and Montenegro just a week before its first game against Dominican Republic in Aug. 25.
Aside from the three, naturalized players Ange Kouame and Justin Brownlee will not anymore join the trip. Kouame will be on loan with Rain or Shine which will be flying the country’s colors in the upcoming Jones Cup while Brownlee is already set to undergo surgery to remove bone spurs on his foot.