Kai Sotto and Ange Kouame will headline the Gilas Pilipinas national basketball pool flying to Jordan for FIBA World Cup Asian qualifying games there and Saudi Arabia.
The Philippines will take on Jordan on November 11, then Saudi Arabia on November 13. Tipoff is midnight, Manila time.
On Saturday, Kouame skipped the training team’s final workout before leaving for Jordan late Monday night. The 6-foot-10 center from Ateneo attended his classes, but will join the rest of the team from departing.
Sotto, on the other hand, will join Gilas Pilipinas in the Middle East as final details of his accommodation is now being worked out by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.
The Gilas training team geared up its preparations in its upcoming game against Jordan and worked primarily on its defensive schemes against one of the most formidable teams in the Middle East.
Led by naturalized player Dar Tucker, a shooting guard, and his backcourt partner Freddie Ibrahim as well as 6-foot-10 Ahmad Al-Dwairi, Jordan went two points short of reaching the championship round of the FIBA Asia Cup this year, and lost to Lebanon by one.
This was also the first time the training team worked together with the other mainstays of the team who were playing in the Japan B. League.
Except for Kiefer Ravena, who won’t be able to make it to the fifth window as he underwent operation on his impacted wisdom tooth, the other star players in the B. League like Dwight Ramos, Ray Parks and Thirdy Ravena attended the workout.
They were joined by the other pool members of the squad, most of them coming from the Philippine Basketball Association.
The PBA stars who were included in the pool are reigning MVP Scottie Thompson and his Barangay Ginebra teammates Japeth Aguilar and Jamie Malonzo, CJ Perez of San Miguel Beer, Roger Pogoy, Calvin Oftana and Poy Erram, Arvin Tolentino of NorthPort.
Aside from Kouame, Kevin Quiambao of La Salle is the only other collegiate star who made it to the pool.
On Monday’s final workout held at the Meralco gym, two TNT players were invited to simulate Jordan’s offensive sets – Carl Bryan Cruz and Dave Marcelo.
SBP president Al Panlilio and PBA commissioner Willie Marcial dropped by Gilas’ final practice and wished the national team the best of luck in the fifth window, while Chris Newsome of Meralco, who was initially included in the pool, but was dropped from the roster after suffering a contusion on his calf, gave some words of wisdom to his comrades.
“Don’t take this opportunity for granted. Stay together. Give it all out there. Remember what you’re representing. Tune out everything that’s going on out there outside. Good luck guys,” said Newsome as he spoke to the members of the team.