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Sotto skips Gilas trip to China

MANILA, Philippines, August 1 ------ Kai Sotto, the country’s ace big man, is not joining Gilas Pilipinas in its trip to China for a pocket tournament against fellow World Cup teams. Sans Sotto, who’s still nursing a back injury, Gilas flies to Guangdong today with an incomplete team once again as the FIBA Basketball World Cup set on Aug. 25 to Sept. 10 nears. “Kai is not joining the team in China,” said Gilas team manager Butch Antonio after the Nationals’ last practice yesterday at the Meralco Gym in Ortigas, Pasig City.

The 7-foot-3 Sotto is still nursing a back injury suffered during the NBA Summer League campaign with the Orlando Magic, and it’s still uncertain when he would be cleared to play. Gilas will slug it out against Senegal, Iran and Lebanon in the China tilt serving as its final tournament before the World Cup, where it is bunched with the Dominican Republic, Angola and Italy.

The Philippines also had overseas trips in Estonia and Lithuania early last month without multiple players like Sotto and NBA standout Jordan Clarkson from the Utah Jazz. Naturalized players Justin Brownlee and Ange Koaume were with Gilas in the European camp but will not join the team this time in China. Brownlee, who’s nursing an ankle injury, is set for rest to prepare for the Asian Games in September while Kouame has been tasked to reinforce PBA’s Rain or Shine in the Jones Cup this month.

Good thing for Gilas, Clarkson will be arriving in China to join them in the latter part of the tournament after sealing his commitment to carry the country’s fight against fellow NBA stalwarts in the 32-team World Cup. With Clarkson and possibly Sotto in by then, Gilas will stage its final preparations at home with a couple more friendly games against teams arriving early here. One of them is Mexico, which is set to test the mettle of the Filipinos on Aug. 21 just a few days before Gilas debuts against the Dominican Republic at the massive Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

Gilas will play its remaining games against Angola and Italy at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.



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