Batang Gilas coach says Kai Sotto has been a game-changer in international play

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Apr 13, 2018 05:24 PM
Kai Sotto has been a game-changer in international play
For the first time in recent history, the Philippines is no longer undersized in international play - thanks to towering teen Kai Sotto (Photo courtesy of FIBA)

Batang Gilas has just proven that the future is indeed bright for Philippine basketball.

Placing fourth in the recently-concluded 2018 FIBA Asia Under-16 Championship, the Filipinos have booked their ticket to only the country’s second-ever trip to the FIBA Under-17 World Cup.

In Gilas Pilipinas head coach Chot Reyes’ mind, the achievement was even more amazing because the team was composed of full-blooded Filipinos. “What is Batang Gilas saying? Na kaya natin na tayo lang,” he said.

He then continued, “Fil-Ams are welcome, but (hopefully), we can get to the point where we don’t need a naturalized player.”

That time may already be here thanks to the rise of towering teen Kai Sotto.

The Philippines had long needed naturalized players like Andray Blatche and Marcus Douthit to provide size.

With the 7-foot-1, 15-year-old, and twin tower Raven Cortez, already in development, though, Batang Gilas – and Gilas, of course – may very well have the local big men it has long been searching for.

Youth team mentor Mike Oliver already saw the difference with how other countries schemed for Sotto. “Yun na ang kinakatakot nila sa atin. Ever since, alam nila na speed at outside shooting ang Philippines then all of a sudden, nagkaroon tayo ng big guys na pwedeng mag-challenge sa kanila,” he shared.

He then continued, “Ang laking bagay sa atin na magka-center in Kai Sotto.”

Still, Oliver said they’re not closing their doors of Filipino-foreign players to join the national team. As he put it, “Kahit sino naman na makakatulong para lumakas yung team natin, wala naman sigurong aayaw. Siyempre, kung may available talent pa na ‘di pa natin nakita, pwede pa rin naman silang mag-try.”

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