Kai Sotto still not a certainty to suit up for Gilas Pilipinas in Clark

Kai Sotto's availability for Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers inside the Clark bubble is still up in the air, but the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) is just thankful the towering teen is available for action.

The fully-vaccinated Sotto finished his government-mandated 14-day quarantine on Sunday, and was one of the 15 Gilas cadets who checked into the Clark bubble on Sunday afternoon.

Sotto, according to SBP Special Assistant to the President Ryan Gregorio, tested negative in every swab test he underwent, but does not mean that he will be able to play on Wednesday against South Korea, on Friday against Indonesia, or Sunday against the Koreans once again.

"He is still evaluated in terms of match fitness, based on my discussion with coach Tab Baldwin. We want to make sure that we are not compromising his health," said Gregorio during a virtual press conference.

"[Sotto] has not done a lot of basketball in the last few days and we want to immerse him slowly. We want to make sure he knows the defensive scheme of things. Our concepts on offense and our strategies and our scouting and all. Of course, on the top of it is to build chemistry," he added.

Gilas program director Tab Baldwin earlier said that he would have wanted the 7'3 center to train with the team "for no less than three weeks" during an interview last March 27.

Baldwin, who was appointed by the SBP to coach the team for the Gilas bubble and the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, Serbia, is seen as the best candidate to guide his players in international play, explained Gregorio.

"Basically the reason is that it is his program so being his program he wants to make sure that all of the adjustments will be done in accordance to his preference and he understands international play better than anyone of us or better than anyone of his coaching staff," Gregorio said.

"So basically that is the reason. It is his program and he wants to make sure the program that he has set in play from the offensive complexities, the defensive schemes and the chemistry that he's trying to espouse will all bring us the kind of good basketball play and give us a good opportunity to win," he added.

The former PBA champion coach also preached patience to the Filipino fans hoping for immediate success.

"We're hoping that we can get the necessary experience at a very high level. This is all in preparation for 2023. So whatever progress that we get from today is actually one step towards our goals to be competitive in 2023," Gregorio said.