Clarkson and Sotto Clarkson and Sotto will not be around to play for the Philippines In Heyuan. FIBA photo

No Clarkson, no Sotto in Heyuan

August 2, 2023 Robert Andaya 480 views

THE Philippines will test its mettle in the 2023 Heyuan WUS International Basketball Tournament in China starting Thursday without two of its biggest stars in NBA mainstay Jordan Clarkson and Kai Sotto.

Clarkson, who has already agreed to play for the country in the coming FIBA World Cup later this month, and Sotto, who is still recovering from a back injury, will not be in Gilas uniform when the Filipinos play Iran at 8 p.m.Thursday at Heyuan Sport Gymnasium and Senegal on Friday at Jiangman En Ping Gymnasium.

The Chot Reyes-mentored Filipinos will play two more games against Senegal on Aug. 6 and Iran on August 7 to complete the three-team pocket tournament serving as part of their preparations for the FIBA World Cup.

The Filipinos, however, will have to do minus Clarkson and Sotto.

Clarkson, the 6-5 Filipino-American star of the Utah Jazz, is set to arrive in the country on Aug. 8.

Sotto, on the other hand, did not join the team’s trip to Heyuan since he is still nursing a back injury he sustained during his NBA Summer League stint with the Orlando Magic.

The 7-3 Sotto, who watched the final day of the PVL Invitational Conference with Akari Chargers player Fifi Sharma, told sportswriters he was doing his best to recover from a back injury.
Reyes refused to comment on Sotto’s failure to join the team in the pocket tournament.

“I think that’s a better question to ask of him rather than me. He was in practice yesterday but… I refuse to comment on it anymore,” said Reyes regarding Sotto’s status, as reported by News5’s Martie Bautista.

The Heyuan pocket tournament is crucial to the preparations of both the Philippines and Iran, which are set to compete at the 2023 FIBA Basketball World Cup scheduled Aug.25-Sept. 10.

The Philippines is in Group A for the World Cup along with Dominican Republic, Angola, and Italy while Iran will be playing in Indonesia as part of Group G with Spain, Brazil, and Cote D’Ivoire.

Senegal, meanwhile, is on the final stages of its preparation for the 2024 FIBA Men’s pre-Qualifying Olympic Qualifying Tournaments that starts on Aug. 12.

Leading the Filipinos’ charge in Heyuan are six-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo

Japeth Aguilar, Ray Parks, CJ Perez, Chris Newsome, Jamie Malonzo, RR Pogoy, Kiefer and Thirdy Ravena, Calvin Oftana, Dwight Ramos and AJ Edu.

Scottie Thompson was originally listed in the team, but the Barangay Ginebra superstar also begged off due to a hand fracture.

After the Heyuan joust, the Filipinos are also lined up for a pair of friendlies against Montenegro and Mexico.

The 2023 FIBA World Cup will formally kick off on Aug. 25 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan with a doubleheader pitting Italy against Angola at 4 p.m and host Philippines against the Karl Anthony Towns-led Dominican Republic at 8 p.m.

Six other games will be played on opening day, including two each at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, Okinawa Arena in Japan and Indonesia Arena in Indonesia.