Take it easy on Kai – Panlilio

Published February 2, 2021, 4:48 PM

by Waylon Galvez

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) President Al Panlilio said Tuesday that the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers should not be the basis in gauging where Kai Sotto is now in terms of improvement or what the future holds for him in his basketball career.

While the SBP chief understands the expectations since Sotto has been training in the US to prepare for the NBA, Panlilio urged Filipino basketball fans to support the journey of the player.

“Easy lang tayo sa kanya (Let’s take it easy on him),” said Panlilio as he appeared on the weekly PSA Forum online.

“Let’s not put too much pressure on him. He’s already pressured enough, for sure. I think he’s pressing himself to do well, he wants to do well, and all of us want him to do well.”

“But let’s just support him in his journey. This window is not a measurement of where Kai Sotto will be and is. I see a big and bright future for Kai Sotto,” Panlilio added.

The 7-foot-3 Sotto, according to Panlilio, is expected to arrive Tuesday night following clearance to join the national team for the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers from his G-League Team, Ignite.

Members of the national team pool are in a training bubble inside Inspire Academy in Calamba, Laguna under project director, coach Tab Baldwin. Sotto will be tested 5 to 7 days upon his arrival from the US for COVID-19, and if it is a negative result, he will be allowed to join Gilas.

“Maybe he’ll practice about a week before the team departs for Doha,” said Panlilio.

The third window was supposed to happen in a bubble meet in Pampanga as the country was to serve as host for Groups A – where the national team belongs – and C, but due to a travel ban of the government on countries with the new strain of the virus, the SBP had to call off the event.

Doha is already the host for Group E with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran, but has added Group A with the Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia, and Group B with China, Chinese Taipei, Japan, and Malaysia.

Japan, like the Philippines, also begged off to host Group B at the last minute due to restrictions imposed by the Japanese authorities.

The bubble tournament in Doha is set Feb. 18 to 22.

The national team plays South Korea twice, Feb. 18 and 22, and Indonesia on Feb. 20. Gilas currently leads Group A with a perfect 3-0 record, followed by South Korea (2-0), Indonesia (1-2) and Thailand (0-4).

Panlilio said that although the national team just needs one game to book a spot in the FIBA Asia Cup on August 16-28 in Jakarta, Indonesia, he hopes that Gilas gets all three wins.

“We really need to win one game, but we want to make sure we are competitive in all games. We want to win all games obviously. We have not lost in our group,” said Panlilio, also the governor of the Meralco Bolts in the PBA and First Vice President of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC).