‘Get Kai Sotto back to the States immediately.’
That’s the plan now of Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, as the 7-foot-3 wunderkind will rejoin Ignite in the NBA G-League.
“Right now, the plan is to have him go back,” SBP director of operations Butch Antonio told Power and Play Saturday. “Nag-pull out na siya sa bubble. He has to continue his quarantine in his residence.
“So, we’re working with him and his group in the US to make sure there is time to join his team and makasali rin siya doon sa kanyang team dun sa G-League na Ignite. Hopefully by next week, maayos na ‘yun.”
The 18-year-old, together with his dad Ervin, flew back to Manila the night of February 2 to join the Filipino dribblers’ campaign in the Asia Cup Qualifiers, where they were set to face South Korea and Indonesia.
Uncertainties, however, clouded the window.
Part of the tilt should have taken place in Clark, but the federation had to beg off from hosting due to the restrictions imposed by the Philippine government caused by the new variant of the coronavirus.
The hosting rights then went to Doha, but the Ministry of Public Health in Qatar has ordered the cancellation of all events to be hosted there due to the increasing rates of COVID-19 cases in the country.
But on Friday night, FIBA Asia said that the games will again take place in Clark following the SBP’s re-bid. The SBP stepped in and regained the hosting as travel restrictions in the country have eased up.
Still, the federation deemed it best to let Sotto resume his G-League campaign, especially given that the schedule of the third window –originally planned for Feb. 17-23 – is not yet final.
This all has delayed the Gilas Men debut of the former Batang Gilas cornerstone. Still, the SBP tipped its hat to Sotto for the sacrifice he made in making himself available for national team duties.
“We have to remember that even before all of these things happened, when he was planning to join the NBA and when he planned his foreign trip, lalo na nung na-sure niya na pupunta siya ng Amerika, he made it clear that every time, basta kailangan siya ng ating bayan, ‘di niya tatanggihan at ‘di niya tatalikuran ang kanyang obligasyon para i-represent ang ating bayan with the national team, which is really commendable as far as how we should look at Kai,” Antonio said.
“It may be a setback for his Ignite career, understandably so, but ang dapat tignan ng tao dito is it is really a sacrifice. And you have to give it to him, ‘yung kanyang commitment. Natuloy ‘yung Doha o hindi, he’s here and he made sure na ‘yung kanyang promise, tinutupad niya.”
Sotto can re-join Gilas’ third window campaign depending on the schedule FIBA Asia gives for the Clark leg.