Working double time to bring home Kai

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    BY hook or by crook, 7-foot-3 center Kai Sotto should make it in time for the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.

    But that does not mean the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas will take “any shortcuts” when it comes to following health protocols, according to SBP special assistant to the president Ryan Gregorio.

    “Kailangang umabot siya, but we’re strictly going to follow the guidelines from the government,” Gregorio said last Saturday on the online show The Chasedown.

    “Ang importante dito, as soon as possible we can get him in the Philippines, and we’ll see it from there,” he added.

    The FIBA late last Jan. 28 announced that Group A, B, and E action of the final leg of the qualifiers will now be hosted by Doha after the qualifiers set at Clark were canceled due to the Philippine government-imposed travel ban on South Korea, Australia, and Hong Kong to contain the spread of the United Kingdom variant of the deadly COVID-19.

    Gregorio said the towering Sotto will likely arrive in the country early this week.

    “It’s taking longer than expected because of the pandemic and we’re supposed to be cautious,” Gregorio said.

    “But hopefully by early next week (this week), we’ll see Kai in the Philippines.”

    Sotto, 18, will possibly miss the NBA G League bubble and instead will suit up for Gilas.

    Gregorio said Sotto will likely play for Gilas despite the taxing process of getting him onboard.

    “There’s a strong marching order from our president Al Panlilio to get him over here and there’s just so many moving parts, and it’s a bit of a challenge for us,” he said.

    “Mayroong US protocols and Philippine protocols na kailangang intindihin, but sa management team ni Kai, we’ve gotten a very good response from East West Private led by Ms. Chao Espaldon.”

    Leading the national team training pool are amateur standouts Isaac Go, twins Matt and Mike Nieto, guard Rey Suerte, Juan and Javi Gomez de Liaño, guard Dave Ildefonso, big men Justine Baltazar, Calvin Oftana, William Navarro, Kemark Cariño, Dwight Ramos, and Ateneo’s Angelo Kouame of Ivory Coast, a candidate for naturalization.