Gilas Pilipinas confirm Kai Sotto absence for China trip ahead of FIBA World Cup

Kai Sotto's availability for Gilas Pilipinas' upcoming FIBA World Cup campaign remains uncertain after it was confirmed he will miss their trip to China for a four-nation pocket tournament. FIBA

Gilas Pilipinas will head to China on Tuesday for their four-nation pocket tournament with just 12 players and without center Kai Sotto, a team official confirmed to ESPN on Monday.

"Kai is not joining the team in China," was team manager Butch Antonio's short message in response to a query from ESPN.

Sotto will reportedly stay behind to continue rehabilitation on a back issue.

Last week, Gilas coach Chot Reyes said team doctors had found nothing wrong with the big man's back, but Sotto's camp reportedly saw something in an MRI.

Sotto showed up for Gilas practice on Monday morning but did not participate in the drills and simply did some light shooting on his own, a source who was at practice confirmed with ESPN.

The day before, he was spotted at the Premier Volleyball League Invitational Conference finals. When interviewed by reporters, Sotto said he would attend Monday's practice even if his back still wasn't 100%, while reiterating that he was still committed to playing in the World Cup.

"I'm always excited. I'm just waiting for my back to heal so that I can give my 100% during the games," Sotto said in Tagalog as quoted by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

"Hopefully my back will be 100% when the World Cup starts."

Sotto's absence reduced Gilas to just 12 players for the pocket tournament that begins on Wednesday and will also feature he national teams of Iran, Lebanon and Senegal.

Already out due to injuries are Scottie Thompson, Poy Erram and Justin Brownlee.

Thompson is still recuperating from a hand fracture, Erram has already been ruled out for the World Cup with a knee issue, while Brownlee is scheduled to undergo surgery this week for bone spurs.

Additionally, Ange Kouame is now practicing with the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters for the William Jones Cup, while Jordan Clarkson will arrive in Manila on Aug. 6.

This leaves Gilas with big men Japeth Aguilar, AJ Edu and June Mar Fajardo; wings Calvin Oftana, Jamie Malonzo and Dwight Ramos; and guards Chris Newsome, Ray Parks, CJ Perez, RR Pogoy and Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena.