Mendoza: Kai called for flag and country

Al Mendoza
·2 min read

AGAIN, Kai Sotto is wanted by Gilas Pilipinas.

And why not?

At 7-foot-2, Sotto is the tallest active basketball player in the country today. If only for that, he should be a shoo-in for inclusion not only in Gilas but in all national teams for the next 10 years at the very least.

And why not?

At under-20 years of age, imagine his almost boundless potential to inflict havoc on our foes in international play — today, tomorrow and many more tomorrows.

He can be so intimidating when he plods on in a game where the perennial rule of thumb is, “height is might.”

He may not be the complete package yet but no problem. No hurries. No worries.

Isn’t he in America’s NBA G-League now, the farm factory for future NBA stars?

A starter for Ignite Select in California, Sotto’s schooling is from coach Brian Shaw, a former NBA standout. Shaw has hired former NBA big man Amir Johnson to personally polish Sotto’s inside game.

Anyone who knows his basketball, if not sports science, will tell you Sotto has to go overseas if he’s serious in pursuing his dream to hit the bigtime. Even if he’s only 18, he already has no equal here.

And the good thing is, Sotto’s father Ervin, the 6-foot-7 former PBA player, is as supportive, practically dropping everything to be at service to his son. No formula for success is more potent than a father staying by his son’s side every step of the way.

Add the unconditional love of Kai’s mother and you have a star waiting to bloom in full splendor. It pays that Ervin’s wife was once also a volleyball star herself — making Kai’s sports DNA almost perfect.

No wonder then that Tab Baldwin, the Gilas’ basketball program director, is salivating over Sotto’s services for the Fiba Asia Cup third window set at Clark Freeport in February.

“Certainly, I want Kai back as early as possible,” Baldwin said after hearing Sotto express a desire to play for Gilas. “As a coach, I look forward to working with him.”

Do we need one win in three games — two against South Korea and one versus Indonesia — to advance after we swept Indonesia and Thailand (twice) in Jakarta last February?

With Kai around, the job could be half done.

Why not?