MANILA, Philippines – It's not everyday that you get taken under the wings of two of the best big men in Philippine basketball.
Kai Sotto certainly knows it's a rare opportunity. That's why the 7-foot-1 prodigy aims to make the most out of his time with PBA giants June Mar Fajardo and Greg Slaughter as they train together in Gilas Pilipinas' 20-man pool for the fifth window of the World Cup qualifiers.
"Excited din ako na makasama sila and sa tingin ko talaga marami akong matututunan from them dahil 'yun nga, nakikita sa PBA na sila 'yung mga dominant na big man," Sotto said.
(I'm excited to play with them and I think I can learn a lot from them because as we can see, they are the most dominant big men in the PBA.)
Of course, the 6-foot-10 Fajardo is arguably the most dominant player in the country today after winning the Most Valuable Player plum in the last 4 seasons and helping the San Miguel Beermen clinch 6 PBA championships.
The 7-foot Slaughter, meanwhile, has been Barangay Ginebra's cornerstone in its last 3 PBA titles. He has also bagged a Best Player of the Conference award.
"Kung ano man 'yung makikita ko sa kanila siyempre, 'yun 'yung maa-apply ko sa sarili ko para mag-improve pa," said Sotto.
(Whatever I see from them, those are the things I will apply to my game so I can improve)
Aside from Fajardo and Slaughter, Sotto could also take some notes from Gilas slotmen Japeth Aguilar, Poy Erram, Christian Standhardinger, Beau Belga and Ian Sangalang.
"['Y]un 'yung gusto ko sa kanilang lahat – 'yung may matutunan ako sa kanila. Kahit sino naman willing naman ako matuto, makikinig lang ako sa kanila."
(That's what I want – to learn something from them. Whoever it is, I'm willing to learn and I will listen to them.)
Sotto got a taste of action from his much experienced teammates as he participated in scrimmages in Day 1 of Team Pilipinas' buildup for the qualifiers on Monday, November 12.
And although still reed-thin and the youngest in the bunch, the 16-year-old doesn't want to shy away from the physicality. (READ: Kai Sotto, Ricci Rivero can still make Gilas' final 12, bares Yeng Guiao)
"Sana ibigay nila 'yung lahat nila dahil siyempre, kaya naman ako nandito para maramdaman 'yung mga bagay na 'yun, para ma-experience din kung paano talaga maglaro 'yung players sa ganitong klaseng level."
(I hope they give it their all. I'm here because I need to experience how the game is played at a higher level.) – Rappler.com
Delfin Dioquino dreamt of being a PBA player, but he did not have the skills to make it. So he pursued the next best thing to being an athlete – to write about them. He took up journalism at the University of Santo Tomas and joined Rappler as soon as he graduated in 2017.