Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin explained his decision to field in 7-foot-4 center Kai Sotto for the game versus South Korea in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in Clark, Pampanga, despite the youngster missing all of training camp.
Baldwin, who is also the Gilas’ program head, said the 19-year old showed a “great retention of information” which means integrating him to the team will not prove to be a problem. Sotto had also previously trained with the Gilas when the team was preparing for the bubble games in Doha, Qatar before that was cancelled because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Kai was able to join us in a previous training bubble when we were preparing to play the games in Doha, Qatar. We accomplished a lot with him during that time but unfortunately, those games were cancelled,” said Baldwin.
“Naturally, we were worried about how much of that will stay with him but the coaching staff was pleased to find out that he has great retention of information. There is a solid foundation of knowledge from his past experience with us that helped him process the new information we introduced since then,” he added.
Baldwin, though, made clear that they were not going to throw Sotto into the deep end of the pool, especially after the latter spent most of the past few weeks in quarantine after arriving from the United States.
“Not being able to do any basketball activities for 14 days will take its toll on anyone so there will be a bit of load management from our part for Kai,” shared Baldwin.
“He did his best to stay in shape during that period but it’s a very quick turnaround. We don’t want to rush him back because, as we’ve said in the past, we cannot risk our long-term goals for short-term gains. There will be parts in the game that we will only use systems that we have been able to indoctrinate him into, but the coaching staff believes that the positives gained by his inclusion will far outweigh the negatives,” he added. (JNP)