MANILA, Philippines -- Young center Kai Sotto is counting down the days until he can finally join the Philippine men's national basketball team.
Sotto arrived in Manila on Monday night and is currently in quarantine, but he expects to join Gilas Pilipinas once he completes the protocols.
It is still uncertain if he can compete in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers in Clark, but Sotto may still play for Gilas in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Serbia.
For the 19 year old, it's an opportunity that he has long waited for. Sotto was originally supposed to play for Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers in February, but the event was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Excited na ako, siyempre," Sotto told News5 upon his arrival. "Kasi 'yun nga, first time ko na makakalaro sa national team ng Pilipinas, kaya sobrang excited."
"Hindi ako makapaghintay na makasama 'yung team," he added.
When Sotto makes his long-awaited debut for the senior national team, he will have a formidable frontcourt partner in Ange Kouame.
The Ivory Coast-born center became a naturalized Filipino citizen last month, paving the way for his participation in FIBA events.
"Sobrang happy ako na naturalized na si Ange," said Sotto, who had the chance to practice with the Ateneo de Manila University center during his brief stay in the country earlier this year. "Happy ako for him kasi alam kong gusto niya rin 'yun."
"Kaya 'yun nga, excited ako na maka-share 'yung court kasama siya," he added.
The FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers will take place in a bubble in Clark, Pampanga from June 16 to 20. Gilas Pilipinas will play South Korea on June 16 and 20, and Indonesia on June 18.
Meanwhile, the FIBA OQT is set for Serbia on June 29 to July 4, with the Philippines grouped with the home nation and the Dominican Republic.