Door’s open for Kai

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star
Doorâs open for Kai
Kai Sotto

MANILA, Philippines — The door is still open for Kai Sotto to join Gilas for the FIBA World Cup even as the 7-3 center isn’t able to make the trip to Guangzhou. “It’s up to Kai,” said Gilas team manager Butch Antonio before boarding the flight to China with the national squad at noon yesterday. “We’ll be back in Manila any day between Aug. 8 to 12, depending on if and when Jordan (Clarkson) arrives. Our return flight isn’t final.”

Sotto is undergoing back rehab under the supervision of three doctors, including a spine specialist, at Makati Medical Center. The timetable is one more week of therapy before Sotto can be back on the court. Antonio said Gilas has booked two tune-up games in Manila after returning from China. Gilas will face Montenegro on Aug. 20 and Mexico on Aug. 21. If Sotto is available, he could do both tune-ups.

In Guangzhou, Gilas will play four games, two against Iran and two against Senegal. Lebanon was initially in the schedule but backed out to participate in an Abu Dhabi tournament. Clarkson was expected to fly to Guangzhou from Los Angeles on Aug. 6. Antonio said the plan is for Gilas to train a few days in Guangzhou with Clarkson and if that’s arranged, the team will stay until Aug. 12. But there is talk that Clarkson will skip China and go straight to Manila. Without Clarkson in Guangzhou, Gilas will return home by Aug. 8.

The good news is the players who missed the recent Europe trip to recover from injuries are healthy with Bobby Ray Parks, Calvin Oftana and RR Pogoy back in harness. AJ Edu, who made the Europe trip but didn’t play because of a sprained ankle, is also cleared for take-off. But Scottie Thompson is staying behind while the metacarpal fracture in his right hand heals. Gilas is required to submit the national pool to FIBA a week before the World Cup begins. It will only be from the pool where coach Chot Reyes picks the final 12 to be named during the technical meeting among team managers on the eve of the inaugurals.

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