FIBA Asia Cup

‘Tough’ Kai Sotto impresses Tab Baldwin after first Gilas Pilipinas stint

Delfin Dioquino

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‘Tough’ Kai Sotto impresses Tab Baldwin after first Gilas Pilipinas stint

IMPRINT. Kai Sotto leaves his mark in his first tour of duty for Gilas Pilipinas.


Kai Sotto, 19, holds his own against more experienced foes as he helps Gilas Pilipinas sweep the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers

Kai Sotto earned more praises from Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin for displaying toughness and grit in his maiden stint for the seniors team.

The 19-year-old Sotto – the second youngest player in the current pool next only to 18-year-old LeBron Lopez – held his own against more experienced foes as he helped the Philippines sweep the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.

“Kai is gonna have to learn a little bit more about his finesse game. I think that, you know, he is trying to go to a power game and he is not a power player yet,” Baldwin said.

“But it is good that he has that mentality, it is good that he has that toughness. I’m really impressed with how tough he is and I did not expect that,” Baldwin added.

Despite his minutes managed, the 7-foot-3 giant played a key role in all of the Philippines’ three wins in the third window in Clark, Pampanga, including a two-game sweep of longtime tormentor Korea.

Sotto normed 9.3 points, 7 rebounds, and 1.3 assists as he went up against former PBA imports Ra Gun-ah (formerly Ricardo Ratliffe) of Korea and Lester Prosper of Indonesia.

Sotto’s finest game numbers-wise came in their stunning 81-78 victory over Korea, where he churned out 11 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 steal in only 18 minutes.

It was a solid first tour of duty for Gilas Pilipinas considering Sotto joined the national team only days before it played its first game on June 16.

While he arrived in the country on May 31, Sotto had to complete a mandatory quarantine that kept him from training with the team for the next two weeks.

“He is still learning. But what a smart kid. He picks things up extremely fast. I think we’re all impressed with how quickly he has learned the basics of our system without maybe learning the nuances of it,” Baldwin said.

“[H]is competitive spirit, it is really admirable, and he fits into the team extremely well. He enjoys being with us.”

Sotto will have his mettle tested on a grander stage as he is expected to join the national team in Serbia for the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament (OQT), where tougher competition awaits.

The Philippines is bunched with world No. 5 Serbia and No. 19 Dominican Republic in the group stage of the OQT. –

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Delfin Dioquino

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.