For Kai Sotto to play for Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament, program director Tab Baldwin said the 7-foot-3 youngster will need more than just showing up for both competitions.
“He has a willingness to come and I guess I’m the problem now, if you will,” Baldwin told former PBA commissioner Noli Eala on the latter’s Power and Play program that aired Saturday, March 27.
“My stance is the stance of a coach, and as a coach I’m developing a team. And so, to be part of that team, you have to be integrated into that team, and to be integrated to that team, you have to train with them,” Baldwin added.
Baldwin said having Sotto train with Gilas will enable him to have time familiarizing the schemes to be implemented in the final window of the continental qualifiers and the OQT.
“I have conditions that say that if Kai comes back and plays for the team and doesn’t train with us, I think he’s gonna go out on the court and look bad. And I don’t think that’s fair to him,” Baldwin said, adding that such a scenario may hurt his NBA chances.
“And I don’t think that’s fair to his prospects, because nobody should kid themselves, NBA coaches are watching everything Kai does. If he comes back here and plays, they’re gonna watch. They’re gonna see how he performs against Korea and in the next level, the OQT.
“And for Kai to have the best experience here, he needs to be part of the training for I would say no less than three weeks. So this is the condition, and I’m not saying that it is three weeks. It might be four, it might be two. And we have to continue to talk to Kai and his people, see what his schedule looks like and find the genuinely best solution for Kai as a basketball player and for the team.
“And that’s the other side of it. He has to be integrated into the team or else he’s gonna detract from their performance if he does not know the systems we are running,” Baldwin concluded.
Sotto was supposed to make his senior national team debut last month, a decision which forced him to supposedly skip the first few games of the Ignite in the NBA G League bubble.
But the third window of the Asia Cup Qualifiers was postponed after Doha opted to cancel its hosting due to the COVID-19 condition, prompting Sotto to come back to the United States and eventually skip the remainder of the GLeague bubble.