In Kai Sotto, Katipunanís newest, tallest tower has risen

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Mar 02, 2018 07:37 PM
In Kai Sotto, Katipunanís newest, tallest tower has risen
Kai Sotto will be terrorizing the UAAP Juniors for three more years

Take out that under construction sign in Katipunan Avenue, the newest and tallest tower over there is open for business.

With a breakout performance in the Finals of the UAAP 80 Juniors Basketball Tournament, Kai Sotto is here and here to stay.

Notching a triple-double in Game 1 and then hitting the go-ahead basket for the championship in Game 3, he is now a UAAP Jrs. champion and Finals MVP.

That means that in just two years, the 7-foot-1 15-year-old has transformed from Jr. NBA prospect that had scouts salivating to UAAP force that has opponents shuddering.

Now he is a champion and a Finals MVP, let us look back at his quick rise.

13-years-old, 6-9, and the greatest find in the history of the Jr. NBA

Back in 2016, there was a kid who just towered over everybody else in the Jr. NBA – and as it turns out, he was the son of former pro Ervin Sotto.

Not long after, everybody from Ateneo to La Salle (both Zobel and Greenhills) were going after Kai.

Kai ultimately decided to go to his “dream school” in Katipunan.

Even then, the promising yet unknown prospect was much welcome in the Blue Eaglets’ nest. “Malaking tulong talaga siya sa amin. Talagang malaki po,” SJ Belangel said then.

14-years-old, 6-9, and the most intriguing rookie in the UAAP

In his first year in the UAAP, Kai wasted no time in showcasing his already elite skills – in particular, being a rim protector and rebounder.

However, for all his hype, he had a quiet first round before getting more comfortable and more confident in the second round.

On the back of per game counts of 4.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks, he eventually emerged as the league’s Rookie of the Year.

It was clear though, after getting outmuscled by the likes of undersized but burly big men Kenji Roman and Karl Penano, Kai still had much room to grow.

14-years-old, 6-11, and one of the pillars of Batang Gilas

That growth got a big boost when Kai was tasked to be a key cog for Batang Gilas in the 2017 SEABA Under-16 championship.

And in his international debut, he indeed shone bright as the hope for Philippine basketball – collecting 17 points, five rebounds, and three blocks in a triumph over Singapore.

With several highlight dunks and blocks in the regional meet, Kai proved that he was well on his way in realizing his potential.

15-years-old, 7-1, and living up to “future of Philippine basketball” hype as Gilas Pilipinas cadet

With little experience in both UAAP and international play, Kai was still included in the so-called wishlist of national team coach Chot Reyes for the 2023 Gilas Pilipinas.

There, his name was put alongside the likes of Robert Bolick, AJ Edu, Kobe Paras, CJ Perez, and Thirdy Ravena.

Kai has also started practicing with the national team, even getting a fan in four-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo.

Not bad for a kid who’s not even of legal age.

15-years-old, 7-1, and a champion in the UAAP

And now, here we are, with Kai and Ateneo atop all of the UAAP.

The best news of all is that he is not yet done growing – be it in height or in weight.

Now walking around at 210 lbs., it won’t be soon before long that Sotto’s weight will be suitable for his towering height.

After all, he is already 30 lbs. heavier than when he first donned the blue and white.

And now, he indeed has the mental fortitude needed to grow into his body. “Siyempre, kailangan pong mag-extra work kaya kumakain ako nang marami tsaka nagwe-weights palagi,” he said.

Katipunan’s newest and tallest tower has risen – but it’s not yet done improving.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.

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