MANILA, Philippines – Gilas Pilipinas will be without two of its best big men when it tries to defend its home in the sixth and final window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
Kai Sotto and Japeth Aguilar will sit out the Philippines’ two-game home stand against Lebanon and Jordan on February 24 and 27, respectively, at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan.
National team head coach Chot Reyes confirmed the development on Monday, February 13.
The news came days after Reyes revealed that Sotto had yet to commit for the FIBA window amid a “very good offer” from the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas.
Still chasing his NBA dream, the 7-foot-3 Sotto will suit up for the Hiroshima Dragonflies in the Japan B. League after ending a two-season stint with the Adelaide 36ers in the National Basketball League in Australia.
In four Asian Qualifiers appearances, Sotto averaged 13.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks.
Meanwhile, Aguilar continues to nurse a knee injury he suffered while playing for Barangay Ginebra in the PBA Governors’ Cup.
Aguilar missed the Gin Kings’ last two games, with Ginebra head coach Tim Cone – who is also an assistant coach for Gilas Pilipinas – saying that the athletic forward remains “immobilized” and in a cast.
“We do not want to mess with Japeth and his knee. His legs are his calling card,” said Cone on Sunday. “He needs all his athleticism before he can get back into the lineup.”
Like Sotto, Aguilar played four games in the Asian Qualifiers, averaging 7.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.5 assists.
Without Sotto and Aguilar, Reyes will look to the likes of June Mar Fajardo, Raymond Almazan, Arvin Tolentino, Justin Brownlee, Jamie Malonzo, Carl Tamayo, and Mason Amos to plug the hole inside. – Rappler.com
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