By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Big man Kai Sotto has been medically cleared to play for Gilas Pilipinas in the upcoming FIBA World Cup that the country is co-hosting in 10 days.
Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) President Al Panlilio disclosed this on Tuesday, Aug. 15, adding that the lanky 7-foot-3 center was in attendance and participated in the team practice the night before.
“Just to put closure on this, our doctors spoke to his doctors and they’ve cleared him to play,” Panlilio said during the special Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at the Meralco Function Hall in Ortigas.
The news not only ended the speculation on Sotto’s availability in time for basketball’s biggest sporting event, but also served as a welcome development for fans who are eager to see him donning the country’s colors.
“We’re looking forward to seeing him (Sotto) play also in the friendlies to get ready… I mean, for everybody to get ready when the games start on the 25th,”Panlilio said.
Sotto’s availability for Gilas in time for the World Cup has been out on question as he is coming off a back injury he sustained during his stint in the NBA Summer League with the Orlando Magic a few months ago.
It forced him to miss the Nationals’ pocket tournament in China earlier this month, although he has been attending practices after that.
“I think the team’s concern right now is to improve his fitness level. Of course, not just his, but everyone’s fitness level leading to the World Cup,” Panlilio said.
With a little more than a week left before the global spectacle, the Nationals are scheduled to play pocket tournaments against Ivory Coast, Montenegro and Mexico in the coming days.
Backstopped by NBA star Jordan Clarkson, Gilas will open its campaign against Dominican Republic on Aug. 25 at the 55,000-seater Philippine Arena in Bulacan where local organizers aim to break the record of having the largest attendance in a FIBA World Cup game.
The Nationals will then face Angola on Aug. 27, followed by Italy on Aug. 29 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.