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FINALLY, KAI IS IN | Sotto signs up with Gilas 

Kai Sotto has officially rejoins Gilas Pilipinas as he signs a deal for the coming FIBA World Cup. (Photo from FIBA)

The waiting game is finally over as Kai Sotto formally signed up with Gilas Pilipinas, making him available to see action in the FIBA Basketball World Cup that the country will host from 25 August to 10 September.

Gilas head coach Chot Reyes broke the news to Daily Tribune, saying that Sotto formally inked a deal that formalizes his inclusion in the Gilas Pilipinas squad that will vie in the prestigious 32-nation tournament.

Reyes, however, stressed that seeing him in action is a different story.

Sotto, after all, has yet to join training as he has yet to get clearance from his medical doctors after sustaining a back injury in his final game in the National Basketball Association Summer League.

In fact, he showed up in Gilas training on Tuesday to inform Reyes that he still has to rest despite already getting cleared by the physicians of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.

Still, having Sotto formally striking a deal with Gilas is a good sign.

“He just signed today (Wednesday),” Reyes said in a Viber message to Daily Tribune.

In a prior message, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio said time is running out and they are ready to move on with or without Sotto.

“We will go with what we have and battle as hard as we can,” Panlilio said in a Viber message when asked about Sotto’s reluctance to join the national squad.

“We want players who are committed to do the same and give it their all for our countrymen.”

Prior to Sotto’s signing, Gilas already reached an agreement with National Basketball Association player Jordan Clarkson.

Panlilio said Clarkson will be hooking up with his Gilas teammates on 6 August and will be ready to see action when they compete in a four-nation pocket tournament in China.

Clarkson’s arrival comes at a perfect time as Gilas’ other naturalized player – Justin Brownlee – is set to undergo surgery to remove bone spurs that have been nagging his foot.

The recovery usually takes six to eight weeks, similar to what NLEX forward Sean Anthony had.

Brownlee, however, will still be available when Gilas Pilipinas competes in the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou from 23 September to 8 October.

Reyes said they are planning to schedule Brownlee’s surgery as soon as possible, which means that he will miss the test event in China as well as the friendly matches against Mexico and other World Cup-bound countries.

“Now that Jordan is already committed to join us, Justin can have it operated so he would be ready for the Asian Games,” said Reyes, whose squad has been hampered by injuries from Carl Tamayo to Scottie Thompson.

“This injury has been bothering him the last four years. It’s a recurring injury where you can simply rest and play on but it’s nagging him.”

Brownlee’s coach at Ginebra, Tim Cone, said Brownlee could have gone under the knife early but he opted to wait until Clarkson had been fully committed.

“It is being considered,” Cone, a Gilas assistant coach, said.

“But he could possibly play through it and get surgery later. However, we may need him for the Asian Games. Nothing is for sure at this point.”

Reyes echoed Cone’s statement, admiring Brownlee’s professionalism and willingness to sacrifice for the country that adopted him.

“Justin was ready to suit up because the pain is manageable,” he said.

“He was even looking at the possibility of playing in the World Cup until Clarkson committed to play for us.”

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