Kai Sotto has decided to rest his back rather than join Gilas Pilipinas in China to play in a pocket tournament, an integral part of the Filipinos’ preparations with the Fiba World Cup just over three weeks away.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) said on Monday that the young center will be heeding his management team’s advice to prioritize strengthening his back after hurting it during his short stint with the Orlando Magic in the NBA Summer League earlier this month.
Sotto’s absence significantly thins out the training squad that will go all the way with NBA star Jordan Clarkson. Barring any complications, the Filipino-American guard will be rejoining the program on Aug. 6, and could be playing against Iran and Senegal in Heyuan City, Guangdong province.
Sotto electing to stay behind should set up 6-foot-11 AJ Edu for the opportunity to further prove himself to national coach Chot Reyes. Still rehabbing his legs during Gilas’ tour of Europe, Edu was big in a recent tuneup game against the Magnolia Hotshots.
“We have guys who are coming from injuries and sometimes they can be a little hesitant, unsure and them being able to regain their confidence is everything leading up to the World Cup,” said Chris Newsome, part of the contingent that left on Tuesday.
“You don’t want to be coming into a tournament with your confidence down, so hopefully everyone gets their confidence up,” he added.
Meanwhile, Italy and Angola—two of Gilas’ opponents in the group phase of the World Cup that unfurls Aug. 25—will be playing against top-flight nations leading up to the main event.
The Italians will be playing No. 6 Serbia and No. 9 Greece in the 32nd Aegean Acropolis Tournament from Aug. 8 to Aug. 10.Angola, on the other hand, goes up against No. 5 France, No. 7 Slovenia, and No. 36 and cohost Japan in Tokyo beginning Aug. 15.
Italy and Angola’s opponents are far superior compared to Gilas foes in past friendlies. Gilas will be playing No. 31 Mexico. A match against No. 18 Montenegro has also been added.
“We prefer much stronger teams, but the reality is they are not too keen on playing us. Of course, if you’re high up in the rankings, why bother [playing us]?” he said. “So, we’re just getting as many more games as we could.” INQ
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