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While it is not his first rodeo for a senior Gilas Pilipinas men’s national team, Kai Sotto is thrilled at the prospect of playing alongside Jordan Clarkson for the very first time in a FIBA-sanctioned game.
The 7-foot-3 NBA prospect will team up with the Utah Jazz super sub when the Philippines takes on Lebanon on August 25 and Saudi Arabia on August 29 as part of the fourth window of the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers, and he is already looking forward to the experience.
“Exciting. Bihira tayo makapagkampi sa isang NBA player na high-level basketball player tulad ni Jordan. Makakatulong yun para sa atin and we will make sure na magiging exciting and magiging maganda ang laro (namin),” Sotto told One Sports earlier in the week during one of Gilas’ practice sessions.
The 6-foot-5 former NBA Sixth Man of the Year winner will be Gilas’ designated “naturalized” player for the window, giving Filipino basketball fans a closer glimpse of what he can contribute to the national team, especially since the August 29 clash against the Saudi Arabians will be played at home.
Clarkson and Sotto will join Ray Parks, Jr., Kiefer Ravena, Thirdy Ravena, Dwight Ramos, Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson, Calvin Oftana, Carl Tamayo and first-timers Chris Newsome, Jamie Malonzo, and Roosevelt Adams in the 13-man pool for the window.
Lebanon previously defeated the Philippines, 95-80 last month in the 2022 FIBA Asia Cup in Indonesia.
As for Tamayo, there is a general feeling of gratitude being able to share the floor with the likes of both Sotto and Clarkson.
“Being able to practice with the best players sa Pilipinas, sina Kai and Jordan Clarkson, syempre sobrang blessed and grateful,” the U.P. Fighting Maroon said. “Madami akong natutunan galing sa kanila.”
Gilas head coach Chot Reyes had earlier mentioned from a radio interview that having Clarkson for the fourth window will also be integral to test how well he can gel with the current crop of players the squad has.
“We’ll see who is playing at their best. We are going through a series or games and competitions in June and July next year,” Reyes said. “When it’s time to name the final 12, we will name the 12 best playing together.”
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