Batang Gilas twin towers Kai Sotto, AJ Edu ready to roll

JR Isaga
Batang Gilas twin towers Kai Sotto, AJ Edu ready to roll
The 7-foot-1 Kai Sotto and 6-foot-10 AJ Edu make an imposing frontcourt as Batang Gilas kicks off its bid in the FIBA Under-18 Asian Championship



MANILA, Philippines – In the game of basketball, much has been said about the Filipinos’ lack of height despite the abundance of heart. It’s this very principle that launched the puso (heart) mantra of the men’s team Gilas Pilipinas.

However, for its youth wing, that height problem is all but fixed. And better yet, the heart is still there.

Enter 7-foot-1 Kai Sotto and 6-foot-10 Filipino-Nigerian Ariel John “AJ” Edu, the new front court duo bannering the Batang Gilas squad set to compete in the FIBA Under-18 Asian Championship starting Sunday night, August 5, in Nonthaburi, Thailand.

While Sotto has made headlines for his exploits as a champion big man of the Ateneo Blue Eaglets in the UAAP juniors and as a Batang Gilas centerpiece in international competitions, not much yet is known from Edu, the University of Toledo commit in the US NCAA Division 1. He first suited up for Batang Gilas in the FIBA 3×3 U18 World Cup last year but has yet to play in the standard 5-on-5 setting.

“I’m definitely very excited,” said Edu, whose mother hails from Surigao. “This is something I’ve been looking forward to for a while.”

The 18-year-old power forward said his chemistry with Sotto and the rest of the team is going along nicely, as his new teammates have welcomed him with open arms.

Batang Gilas kicks off its bid versus Lebanon in Group B at 9 pm on Sunday. The Philippines will next face United Arab Emirates on Monday at 6:45 pm and China on Tuesday also at 6:45 pm.

The top 4 in the 16-team field will represent Asia in the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup. 

“[The chemistry] is building very well,” he said. “It’s building at a much faster rate than I thought it would. It’s looking good. At first, it’s a little bit difficult, to be honest – first few days, I was struggling a bit – but right now, I’m really getting used to [the environment], getting used to the style of play. I’m really enjoying it right now.”

Sotto couldn’t hide his excitement as well, as he enumerated the things that make Edu stand out. The team’s other key big man, Carl Tamayo, will unfortunately sit out due to injury.

Si AJ kasi, mas malaki, mas mahaba, mas athletic, mas skilled,” Sotto said. “Ang pagkakaiba kasi kay AJ, yung athleticism niya para sa size niya, ‘yun yung parang mas special kaysa sa iba dahil ‘yung laro niya, di siya yung [tipikal] na center.”

(AJ is bigger, longer, more athletic and more skilled. AJ’s difference is his athleticism for his size, and that makes him special because his game isn’t like the typical mold of a center.)

Individually, Sotto and Edu are proven talents for their age group given their respective track records. Starting on Sunday, however, the world will see what more damage they can do once they start playing under the same flag. –

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