With six-time Philippine Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo still recovering after undergoing throat surgery, Gilas Pilipinas has decided to enlist 7-foot-3 center Kai Sotto and naturalized player Ange Kouame in time for the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
The Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas released the 20-man pool that will be submitted to the organizers on or before October 31.
Sotto, the 20-year-old player, is currently playing for the Adelaide 36ers in the National Basketball League Australia.
Kouame, on the other hand, is seeing action for the Ateneo Blue Eagles in the Universities Athletic Association of the Philippines.
The team’s naturalized player started playing for Gilas Pilipinas as early as last year and his presence will be badly needed to shore up the team’s front court.
Aside from Sotto and Kouame, Gilas Pilipinas has included a mixture of experienced and young players playing from the PBA, the Japan B. League and the UAAP.
The PBA stars include reigning MVP Scottie Thompson, Japeth Aguilar and Jamie Malonzo of Barangay Ginebra, Calvin Oftana, Roger Pogoy and Poy Erram of TNT, CJ Perez of San Miguel Beer, Arvin Tolentino and William Navarro of NorthPort, and Chris Newsome of Meralco.
Dwight Ramos, Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena and Ray Parks, who are all playing in the Japan B. League, were tapped for another tour of duty and will start rejoining the national training team next week.
Others added to the pool were Carl Tamayo from University of the Philippines, Kevin Quiambao of La Salle and Francis Lopez.
The final 12 will be named on the eve of the Philippines’ game against Jordan.
Gilas will play away games in the fifth window and will take on their Jordanian rivals on November 10 and will play the Saudis on November 13.
The team will leave on November 7, according to Gilas team manager Butch Antonio.
(Photo credit: FIBA)