Kai Sotto 'excited' to join Gilas Pilipinas ahead of 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers

The 19-year-old will meet up with his Philippines teammates in their training bubble once he completes his 14-day quarantine after arriving in Manila on 31 May.
By Will Imbo

Kai Sotto has admitted he is 'excited' to rejoin his Gilas Pilipinas teammates ahead of the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup basketball qualifiers.

"I'm just waiting for the announcement for when I'll be leaving for the national team training bubble," Sotto told STAR columnist Quinito Henson and ABS-CBN's Dyan Castellejo on 9 June.

"I'm ready, I'm excited and I can't wait," he added.

Will Kai Sotto play for the Philippines in the Asia Cup qualifiers?

Sotto, 19, is yet to make his debut with the senior national squad, but has plenty of experience representing his country with the Philippines' youth teams.

However, with his call-up to the senior side, the 2.21 m (7'3") big man appears to be in Jong Uichico's plans for the Asia Cup qualifiers.

"It's a dream come true, it's almost a no-brainer when I have an opportunity to play for the men's national team... I've been waiting for this moment. I just kept on working and I just can't wait." - Sotto, speaking to Philstar.com

While in quarantine Sotto has reportedly been keeping himself in peak condition in preparation for potential playing time in the East Region Asia Cup qualifiers, which will recommence in Clark, Philippines on 16 June.

Gilias Pilipinas first take on the Republic of Korea on 16 June, before facing Indonesia on 18 June and Korea once more on 20 June.

Qualifying for Tokyo

After their final game against Korea, the Philippines will only have nine days of rest and preparation before they must travel to Belgrade to play in the Olympic Qualification Tournament (OQT) on 29 June.

The Philippines haven't qualified for an Olympic basketball tournament since Munich 1972 (where they finished 13th), and up until February 2021, looked to have missed out on their chances of heading to Tokyo as well.

But with New Zealand’s withdrawal from the men’s Olympic qualification tournament, Gilas Pilipinas now have a second chance to earn a spot at Tokyo 2020. But in order to qualify, they must win the OQT - a tough challenge as they face the Dominican Republic (19th in the world) and hosts Serbia (5th in the world) in Group A in the first round of the competition.

Should Sotto fail to play in the Asia Cup qualifiers, he may get another chance to suit up for the national team at the OQT.

Learn more about Kai Sotto and the Philippines' quest for Olympic qualification here.

NBL and the 2022 NBA Draft

In April, Sotto - the first international player to sign a contract with the NBA's G League - signed a multi-year deal with the Adelaide 36ers of Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL).

Sotto should make his debut with the 36ers next season and will be eligible to enter the NBA Draft in 2022.

Prior to Sotto joining the NBL, he had been rumoured to enter the 2021 NBA Draft - but due to an NBA rule that requires players to be one year removed from high school, he was ineligible for the event.

Sotto has already revealed that he's looking forward to playing against the Sydney Kings' Jaylin Galloway, a fellow alumnus of basketball academy The Skill Factory based in Atlanta.

Based on how Sotto performs at the Asia Cup qualifiers, OQT and NBL season this year, we could see his name called in the first round of the NBA Draft in 2022.