Gilas Pilipinas is finally coming together.
A day after returning from China, the national team held a closed-door practice at the PhilSports Arena in Pasig on Wednesday, August 9. This was Jordan Clarkson and Kai Sotto’s first opportunity to train with the rest of the squad.
Head coach Chot Reyes released a video on Instagram showing Clarkson and Sotto shooting hoops with the rest of the team.
Clarkson arrived on Tuesday from the United States after missing the Heyuan WUS International Basketball Tournament in China.
Sotto, on the other hand, stayed in the Philippines to recover from a sore back which he’s been experiencing since his stint with the Orlando Magic in the NBA Summer League in the middle of July.
The Philippines finished the three-team pocket tournament that also included Iran and Senegal with a 3-1 record, showing promise despite the absence of Clarkson and Sotto.
Both expected to play significant roles for Gilas which is bracketed in Group A along with 10th-ranked Italy, the 23rd-ranked Dominican Republic, and the 41st-ranked Angola.
In two FIBA outings for Gilas in the Asian Qualifiers last year, Clarkson proved worthy of his reputation as an NBA veteran by averaging 25 points, 6.5 assists, and 5.5 rebounds.
The 7-foot-3 Sotto was similarly impressive in four games in the same tournament, averaging 13.3 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks.
Aside from the duo, pool members who attended the Wednesday practice were CJ Perez, Roger Pogoy, Rhenz Abando, Calvin Oftana, AJ Edu, Japeth Aguilar, Chris Newsome, Jamie Malonzo, Dwight Ramos, June Mar Fajardo, Ray Parks, and the Ravena brothers Kiefer and Thirdy.
Scottie Thompson, the national team’s projected chief playmaker, is still out with a broken hand.
Gilas will have a little over two weeks to wrap up its preparations before debuting on August 25 against the Dominican Republic at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.