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Kai Sotto turns focus to Adelaide, begs off Gilas duty in FIBA Asia Cup

Kai Sotto will not join the Gilas Pilipinas training pool already hard at work training for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup set in Jakarta, Indonesia in August.

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) Special Assistant to the President Ryan Gregorio confirmed the development Wednesday, explaining that the 7-foot-3 wunderkind's commitments with the Adelaide 36ers in the Australian NBL will keep him away from the national team for the coming continental showpiece.

"We were told that Kai would be fulfilling his commitments with Adelaide," bared Gregorio. "His management team informed us that Kai is bound to join his new team as soon as possible. With this development, we are moving forward with our preparations without Kai."

That also means that the Filipinos will be without Sotto's services for the King Abdullah Cup in Jordan starting Sunday. The nationals are looking at the pocket tournament as yet another international arena where their young players can get more experience and exposure.

He was a crucial piece in the frontcourt for the Gilas squad that saw action in the Asia Cup Qualifiers in Clark and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT) in Belgrade, Serbia, displaying improvements both in his build and his skillset.

The 19-year-old averaged 9.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 1.3 assists in the third and final window of the qualifiers then followed it up with a pair of solid performances in the OQT against Serbia and Dominican Republic when he put up per game counts 9.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.0 steals.

Asked about the possibility of adding new players to take Sotto's place in training camp, Gregorio answered that there are "no new names at the moment."

Already inside the training bubble at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna are Thirdy Ravena, Allyn Bulanadi, Dave Ildefonso, Matt Nieto, and Rey Suerte, as well as the 11 players who competed in the OQT in naturalized big Ange Kouame, Dwight Ramos, SJ Belangel, Justine Baltazar, William Navarro, RJ Abarrientos, Jordan Heading, Carl Tamayo, Mike Nieto, Geo Chiu, and team captain Isaac Go.

Also receiving call-ups are Jaydee Tungcab, Kemark Carino, and Tzaddy Rangel.