The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas is set to impose a deadline on Kai Sotto as he has yet to join in full-contact training with Gilas Pilipinas with barely two weeks left before the FIBA Basketball World Cup.
Gilas Pilipinas team manager Butch Antonio told Daily Tribune that they are set to tackle Sotto’s fate and decide whether they wait for his medical clearance or move forward with their preparation for the prestigious 32-nation tourney that the country will host from 25 August to 10 September.
Since arriving from the United States three weeks ago, Sotto has yet to join in contact drills with his teammates after suffering a back spasm during his final game in the National Basketball Association Summer League.
Sotto’s father, Ervin, told Daily Tribune that his son has to undergo 12 therapy sessions before seeking the medical clearance that is being required by the SBP.
Ervin admitted that the 7-foot-3 slotman had completed only nine sessions so far with the 12th expected to be done on 21 August – barely four days before the World Cup tips off at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.
Antonio said the federation will set a timetable on Sotto’s availability.
“That’s something we have to discuss,” Antonio, also the federation’s deputy executive director, said in a telephone conversation on Friday morning.
“We have to know how long we have to wait.”
In a previous interview, Gilas coach Chot Reyes said they want to see the result of magnetic resonance imaging test done on Sotto as well as his medical clearance to make sure that he is fit to play.
“They said that they already have the MRI, we want to see that or have our doctors see that. We can also have him undergo an MRI test if he wants,” Reyes said.
“The SBP, they want to make sure that Kai is okay before he starts training. We don’t want to field him if he’s not 100 percent healthy.”
Sotto showed up in Gilas’ training last Wednesday at the Philsports Arena.
Although it was a closed-door session, footage that circulated on social media shows that he is running up and down the court while shooting pull-up jumpers with other Gilas big men like Japeth Aguilar and June Mar Fajardo.
SBP president Al Panlilio said Sotto is free to join the training but he has to present a clean bill of health before they include him in the final roster.
After all, it is a standard operating procedure for all national federations in the world to require their injured players to present medical clearance before they could be included in full-contact workouts.
Panlilio said they don’t want to risk Sotto’s career so they have to make sure that he is perfectly healthy before getting integrated into the program.
But time is running out and they have to know as soon as possible if Sotto will be in or out.
“He’s too behind, for sure,” Panlilio said in a Viber message, adding that if Sotto will join, he has to present the medical clearance before they battle Ivory Coast, Montenegro and Mexico in a series of friendly matches from 18 to 21 August.
“He isn’t even in shape. I have asked the coaches to set a deadline. My hunch is, he should be able to play the friendlies.”
Panlilio added even if Sotto decides to suit up in the friendlies, they still have to revisit the contract that he forged with the federation two weeks ago.
“He can play, but his contract will look different as I need to protect the federation from any liabilities,” Panlilio said.