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Sotto World Cup stint still unclear

KAI Sotto (right) and Jordan Clarkson, make a good first impression in their first game back for Gilas. | PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF FIBA

Kai Sotto showed up at the Gilas Pilipinas training on Wednesday at the Philsports Arena.

But it doesn’t mean that he’s already cleared to see action in the FIBA Basketball World Cup set to open two weeks from now at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

Sotto’s father, former Philippine Basketball Association cager Ervin Sotto, said his son insisted to join the Gilas training despite nursing a back injury that he sustained in the National Basketball Association Summer League in Las Vegas.

He said the younger Sotto is still three sessions away from completing the 12-session rehabilitation for his back spasm and they are hoping that he will be issued the medical clearance before the prestigious 32-nation spectacle tips off on 25 August.

In a previous statement, Ervin stressed that Sotto’s treatment will be completed on 21 August, barely four days before Gilas battle Dominican Republic in the opener.

“He just really wanted to go there,” Ervin told Daily Tribune, adding that his son was limited to light shooting and running.

“He wants to attend the training, even though he’s not allowed to do contact drills.”

In a telephone conversation, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio reiterated that the only way for the 21-year-old Sotto to suit up is if he presents a medical clearance.

After all, presenting a medical clearance is a standard operating procedure of all national federations to their athletes who came from injuries.

“We’re liable to the safety of our players,” Panlilio said.

“Yes, we know that he has attended the past few practices, but he’s not allowed to do contact drills and how fit he will be for the FIBA World Cup is a big question.”

Panlilio added that he had already instructed Gilas team manager Butch Antonio and head coach Chot Reyes on their condition to the young star.

“I told Butch and coach Chot (Reyes) that if they really need Kai to be there, then I have no problems with that, but we want to make sure that he’s fit to play for the FIBA World Cup,” Panlilio said.

Sotto signed a contract with the federation to signify his intention to see action in the World Cup.

But Panlilio and the federation asserted that they will only honor the contract if and when Sotto and his team formally present a medical clearance.

“His agent has been telling him that although he’s not practicing, he’s there watching,” Panlilio said. “But we have to review the contract again because it’s been 17 days since he’s been here, but he could barely do anything in practice. That agreement is something we have to review, but we’re open to having him on the team as long as he’ll be ready to play.”

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