Gilas Pilipinas and head coach Chot Reyes are now in an anxious waiting game regarding the availability of prized big man Kai Sotto for the sixth and final window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
A cloud of uncertainty surrounds Sotto, who, according to earlier reports, is looking to restart his NBA bid, making him unavailable for his national team duties when Gilas plays formidable squads Lebanon and Jordan in the two-game home stand at the Philippine Arena.
According to Reyes, talks between Gilas and Sotto’s camp, which is being handled by renowned sports agency Wasserman along with East West Private, have been ongoing and a "very good" offer was already on Sotto’s table.
“They're talking. There are negotiations. We've made an offer, a very good offer. It's up to them now kung ano yung gagawin nila. I hope they do but we'll never know until he's actually here,” Reyes told reporters on Saturday, Feb. 11.
The outspoken mentor is keeping his fingers crossed to have Sotto back for another tour of duty given with how vocal the 7-foot-3 center in representing the country not just with Gilas in the past few windows, but also during his stint with the Adelaide 36ers in NBL Australia and now with the Hiroshima Dragonflies in Japan B.League.
“He's always told us how committed he is to the national team and how he wants to serce and I think you can see even in his own personal statements at mga posts niya. But again until he's here we really never know,” said Reyes.
Sotto not being able to join should come as big blow for Gilas especially on its frontline rotation now left with Raymond Almazan, June Mar Fajardo, and amateur standouts Mason Amos, Kevin Quiambao and Carl Tamayo in the pool following the injury of Ginebra big man Japeth Aguilar.
The 6-foot-9 forward sustained an MCL sprain and there’s still no timetable for his return.
“That's a huge blow for us not only in size but also the leadership. Japeth brings a very huge leadership component to us so malaking bagay yun which means others will have to step forward to play that,” Reyes said of his long-time national team member.
Good thing, though, Reyes and his coaching staff will finally have a chance of finally seeing the entire pool together with the Japan-based players set to rejoin the team on Monday, Feb. 13.
“We just need to have a complete team to be able to practice and figure out what we are going to do and how we are going to prepare for the next two games. That's the most important thing for us now,” Reyes stressed.