Gilas Pilipinas head coach Tab Baldwin was surprised by the toughness and grit shown by 19-year old center Kai Sotto during the recently concluded FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers in Clark, Pampanga.
The 7-foot-3 center played in all of the Gilas’ three games and posted respectable averages of 9.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 1.3 assists. The youngster’s best performances, though, came against the Philippines’ biggest basketball rival—South Korea—as he posted 11 points in their thrilling 81-78 win last Wednesday before netting 10 in their 82-77 victory last Sunday.
Baldwin said he was impressed by the grit shown by Sotto especially against the physical big men of South Korea and Indonesia.
“I’m really impressed with how tough he is. I did not expect that,” said Baldwin.
Still, the sky’s the limit for Sotto especially since he never got to have a full training camp with the Gilas as he had to go through quarantine protocols after arriving from the United States. As it is, Baldwin liked what he saw from the young man and is confident that he will make his way to greater heights.
“Kai is definitely finding his way at this level. He’s a young kid who has not played a lot of elite-level basketball; and probably most of the athletes he has played in are in the States, where the physicality of the game is very different,” added Baldwin. “Kai has to learn more about his finesse game, and I think that he is trying to have a power game but he is not a power player yet. But it’s good that he has that mentality and that toughness.”
Baldwin also shared that Sotto, along with the rest of the Gilas players who will compete in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament later this month, will gain valuable experience that would bode well for their development. The Gilas battles world basketball powerhouse Serbia on June 30 and later on, take on the Dominican Republic.
“I think for all the players, going up against Serbia and the Dominican Republic will be a huge experience. It’s like going from high school to getting a master’s degree or even a doctorate degree as we go over there to play these guys,” said Baldwin. “Our job is to compete and try to compete, and I think that’s possible. I have no doubt that Kai will reflect that attitude.” (JNP)