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MANILA, Philippine – Gilas Pilipinas awaits the arrival of several Japan B. League stalwarts as it ramps up its training for the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers in November.
Dwight Ramos, Ray Parks, and brothers Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena are expected to return to the country next week to join the national basketball team’s training for a pair of away games against Jordan (November 10) and Saudi Arabia (November 13).
“FIBA has a directive to all the leagues around the world that players cannot be prevented from playing for their national teams,” said Gilas coach Chot Reyes.
Most of the leagues in the region will take a break to give way for the FIBA window, including the Japan B. League which will run its final playdate on Wednesday, October 26, before returning to action on November 19.
The PBA is scheduled for a brief break from October 31 to November 4, where Gilas hopes to squeeze in some daily practice before leaving on November 7.
Aside from the B. League players, Gilas Pilipinas plans to bring in naturalized player Ange Kouame while still trying to find ways to get 7-foot-3 center Kai Sotto on board.
Sotto plays for the Adelaide 36ers in the National Basketball League (NBL) in Australia, which will also go on a 10-day break in time for the FIBA window.
Reyes hopes for the inclusion of Sotto with June Mar Fajardo out for the fifth window as the PBA star big man continues to recover from his throat surgery.
In the previous window, Sotto teamed up with NBA star Jordan Clarkson when the Philippines played an away game against Lebanon last August 26 and a home game versus Saudi Arabia on August 29.
“Hopefully, we can get Kai,” said Reyes. “Just like in Japan, we know that on a certain date… [the Filipino players will] be available by then and we’re hoping the same for Kai.”
Last Monday, Gilas resumed its training with 10 players participating in the weekly session.
PBA stars like reigning MVP Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar and Jamie Malonzo of Barangay Ginebra joined practice along with Roger Pogoy, Calvin Oftana and Poy Erram of TNT, and Arvin Tolentino of NorthPort.
Chris Newsome of Meralco returned after being sidelined for several weeks because of contusion on his calf, while amateur standouts Kevin Quiambao of La Salle and Francis Lopez of Ateneo also attended training.
Naturalized player candidate and Barangay Ginebra import Justin Brownlee has been under the weather and was advised to rest, while Ange Kouame, the current naturalized player, had school commitments. – Rappler.com