YOUNG giant Kai Sotto said he cherishes the experiences he and the rest of the Gilas Pilipinas has had during their stint in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament last week in Belgrade, Serbia.
Even though the team lost both of its games, the 7-foot-3 NBA hopeful shared that he is grateful for the opportunity to have gone up against big man Boban Marjanovic, a Serbian who plays for the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA.
“I'm more than grateful to play against these teams here, to play against outstanding players,” the youngster said in a talk with FIBA. At just 19 years of age, Sotto showed maturity beyond his years and averaged 10 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals in losses to Serbia (76-83) and the Dominican Republic (67-94).
“I learned a lot and I can't wait for the next time to play with my team,” Sotto added.
The losses may have stung but Sotto says they also gained valuable lessons along the way, lessons that they can use in their build-up for the FIBA World Cup in 2023 which the Philippines is co-hosting with Japan and Indonesia.
“Now we know our weaknesses,” Sotto relayed. “We still have time to improve. But I believe in this team and I believe in this coaching staff. So you can expect us to be better and we will.”
Playing with a team devoid of players from the pro ranks, the Gilas Pilipinas has shown massive development in the last months, including a sweep of their games in the final window of the FIBA Asia Cup. They also pushed Serbia—the no. 5 ranked team in the world—to the hilt before losing.
"The 2023 Fiba Basketball World Cup is our main goal and this team is the development team for the future. Everybody sees that we are very young and many of these players will be on the roster for that time. Therefore, I believe everybody will keep working hard and get better until then," Sotto said. (JNP)