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Kai Sotto enters ACQ bubble, but status vs. SoKor still up in air

Kai Sotto, seen here just stepping down the bus, has entered the FIBA ACQ bubble in the Clark area, but on when he can play for Gilas remains unknown. Paolo Barcelon/CNN Philippines
By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--In what could be a major boost to Gilas Pilipinas ahead of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers June window, seven-foot-four beanpole Kai Sotto arrived in one of the tournament's bubble residence, the Quest Hotel inside the Clark Freeport Zone in Mabalacat.

Arriving straight from Calamba just before 4 p.m. Sunday, Sotto was among the Gilas players who entered the bubble ahead of crucial games this week that could decide their fate of qualifying for the FIBA Asia Cup in Jakarta this August.

Sotto's presence could be timely as Gilas has been recently hit with injuries during their training camp, particularly to Matt Nieto, Rey Suerte, Dave Ildefonso, Kenmark Carino, and Jason Credo.

However, that would depend on which Kai Sotto will show up in Gilas' games against South Korea and Indonesia at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center later in the week.

Due to the IATF Resolution 114, Sotto, who arrived from the United States on May 31, had to undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine, which is to end on Sunday.

"He was tested negative [for COVID-19], so that is great news for us," Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas special assistant to the president Ryan Gregorio said in a virtual press conference.

With him completing the quarantine, Sotto was cleared to join Gilas in the trip to Mabalacat.

However, due to the same quarantine rules, Sotto was also not able to join his teammates in practice and can only train with them on Tuesday, the eve of Gilas' first meeting against South Korea.

"He will still be evaluated in terms of his match fitness," Gregorio further said. "We want to make sure that we are not compromising his health."

He added, "He has not done a lot of basketball in the past few days, and we want to immerse him slowly. We want to make sure that he knows the defensive scheme of things, the concepts in offense, our strategies and scouting reports, and at the top of it build chemistry."

Gregorio said that the SBP will announce Sotto's availability for the ACQ by Tuesday, when it reveals Gilas' roster against South Korea in the first of two meetings.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno

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