Is Kai coming or going?

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star
Is Kai coming or going?
Kai Sotto
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Kai Sotto has signed a two-month contract to play for the Hiroshima Dragonflies in the Japanese B-League as an Asian heritage import but it won’t take effect until March 1 so the door is open for the 7-3 center to suit up for Gilas in the sixth FIBA World Cup Asia qualifying window against Lebanon on Feb. 24 and Jordan on Feb. 27, both in the Philippine Arena.

There’s no doubt Sotto wants to play for Gilas but at the moment, talks are still ongoing with SBP to finalize his participation. Five B-League players in the Gilas pool of 24 are expected to report for practice at the Meralco Gym on Monday and Sotto could join the group if negotiations are settled. Gilas head coach Chot Reyes said practices will be more than just every Monday starting next week but the final schedule will be coordinated with PBA. There may be at least 10 days of practice before the game against Lebanon.

Gilas held its third practice last Monday since the start of the year and 14 players attended. Reyes supervised the evening session with assistants Tim Cone, Jong Uichico and Josh Reyes. Reporting for duty were Justin Brownlee, Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar, Jamie Malonzo, June Mar Fajardo, CJ Perez, Calvin Oftana, RR Pogoy, Arvin Tolentino, Chris Newsome, Raymond Almazan, Carl Tamayo, Deschon Winston and Mason Amos. The players went through five-on-five half-court and full-court drills.

Hiroshima’s roster includes Japanese-American Shinsaku Enomoto (Isaiah Murphy) and imports Kerry Blackshear Jr., Dwayne Evans and Nick Mayo. Under B-League rules, a team may enlist either a naturalized player or Asian heritage import. The Dragonflies will take a break on Feb. 13-March 7 to give way to the FIBA window then resume action on March 8. The B-League regular season ends May 7 or a week after Sotto’s contract with Hiroshima expires.

Sotto was still in Australia yesterday but if and when Sotto joins Gilas for this coming window, he’ll likely fly in from Japan. After playing for Hiroshima, Sotto will attend NBA team workouts preparatory to seeing action in the NBA Summer League. He has already received several feelers to train with NBA teams. Sotto was released by Adelaide of the Australian National Basketball League after his rights were bought out. His dream remains to break into the NBA and at 20, he has time to make it happen.


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