MANILA, Philippines -- Kai Sotto has confirmed that he will not play for Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Cup, and the Filipino teenager asks for understanding even as he vowed to return to the national team as a stronger and better version of himself.
A pillar of the Gilas Pilipinas Youth program for several years, Sotto made his debut for the Philippine men's basketball team in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers last month. In two games against South Korea and one against Indonesia -- all wins -- Sotto put up 9.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 1.3 assists.
He also suited up in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament, averaging 9.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists in two games against Serbia and the Dominican Republic.
But his responsibilities with his professional team -- the Adelaide 36ers of Australia's National Basketball League -- will keep Sotto from playing in the FIBA Asia Cup in Jakarta next month.
"His management team informed us that Kai is bound to join his new team as soon as possible. With this development, we are moving forward with our preparations without Kai," Ryan Gregorio of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas said on Wednesday.
It's a development that Sotto himself confirmed on his Facebook account.
"The SBP and my EWP (East West Private) team have been trying to figure out what is the best balance for the team and my personal development," Sotto said. "For a while, I was really hoping that I would be able to join my teammates in Indonesia."
"But as you all know, I already committed to join the NBL starting the 2021/2022 season," he added.
Sotto, who signed with the 36ers in April, will be in Adelaide on August 1 to start a two-week quarantine and get himself settled for his first preseason with the club.
The FIBA Asia Cup runs from August 17 to 29 in Jakarta, Indonesia.
"Playing in the NBL is a critical step in my basketball journey," the teenage center explained. "Now that I have fulfilled my qualifier window and OQT commitments to the national team, I want to focus on playing well for the Adelaide 36ers and focus 1,000% on giving the 36ers all my best."
"Alam ko po na may mga ma-disappoint sa announcement na ito," Sotto acknowledged. "Pero hinihingi ko po ang inyong pag-uunawa."
Sotto, who is expected to play a big role for the Philippines in the FIBA World Cup 2023, vowed that he will continue to improve and get better in Australia.
"Babalik ho ako sa Gilas na mas malakas at mas maraming natutunan sa aking paglalaro sa Australia," he said.
"Ipagdadasal ko po ang mga kasamahan ko para sa Asia Cup and I will be one of their loudest fans! Maraming salamat po sa inyong pagsusubaybay sa aking basketball journey!"
Sotto will also not play in the King Abdullah Cup, the pocket tournament in Jordan that Gilas Pilipinas will join from July 25 to August 3.