Kai Sotto embraces Gilas' underdog status in FIBA World Cup

Ralph Edwin Villanueva - Philstar.com
Kai Sotto embraces Gilas' underdog status in FIBA World Cup
Kai Sotto

MANILA, Philippines -- Kai Sotto is looking forward to seeing how an underdog Gilas team will fare against the much more talented teams in the upcoming FIBA World Cup.

Interviewed over STAR sports columnist Quinito Henson’s Playitright podcast, the 7-foot-3 Sotto said that despite the Philippine team being a host nation, they are still tagged as underdogs against Dominican Republic, Angola and Italy.

“Obviously, they are very tough teams. For me, all the teams in the World Cup are tough teams. That is what everyone sees, the elite NBA players,” Sotto said in a mix of English and Filipino.

NBA stars Karl-Anthony Towns, Al Horford and Chris Duarte are included in Dominican Republic’s pool of players.

Italy, meanwhile, will have the Utah Jazz’s Simone Fontecchio, as well as former NBA players Nicolo Melli and Gigi Datome.

Angola will field Atlanta Hawk Bruno Fernando.

The Philippines, of course, will feature Jazz star Jordan Clarkson, who is expected to arrive in the country this week.

“All I see is opportunity, for me and the team. For Gilas, it is a big opportunity as even though we are the hosts, we are still the underdog of this tournament,” Sotto, who himself played in the NBA Summer League for the Orlando Magic, said.

“So, we might not be as talented as the other teams, but we will never give up. We have 'puso'. I think it is going to be a tough match, everything, from Angola. It is a really good chance for us to show us who we really are,” he added.

In a separate interview over Noli Eala’s Power and Play on Saturday, Gilas head coach Chot Reyes said that despite the fewer days with Clarkson, they are confident that the offensive juggernaut will be integrated with the team quickly.

Reyes bared he has been in communication with Clarkson.

“[Clarkson] has assured me that he is in pretty good shape, he has been working out. He is working on his skills, so I think the number one thing that I can expect is that he is in basketball shape,” he said.

Sotto said that he is seeing Clarkson to play 100% for Gilas.

“That is why he is an elite NBA player, because of his skill and his mentality. I know JC will be really, really good for us. It is not a secret that he is the best player of the team when he is here,” he said.

He underscored the need of the other players to support Clarkson especially since they are expecting the defense to focus on the 6-foot-5 guard.

The Nationals will be coming from China after a pocket tournament this week.

Gilas is 1-1 in the tuneup games after beating Iran and losing to Senegal.

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