Kai Sotto a 'fighter,' says Gilas coach Yeng Guiao

MANILA, Philippines – Sixteen-year-old Gilas Pilipinas prospect Kai Sotto obviously has a long way to go, but if there is one thing national team coach Yeng Guiao likes about him, it is that he is a "fighter."

Guiao lauded Sotto for not succumbing to intimidation after he suited up for the Nationals for the first time in a 60-71 tuneup game loss to Lebanon on Sunday, November 25. 

Playing half of the 3rd quarter, the 7-foot-1 high schooler tallied 2 points and almost put Lebanese center Ater Majok in a poster dunk but was fouled in the process. 

Although the missed highlight didn't reflect on the scoreboard, it was enough to impress the fiery mentor. 

"I'm pretty happy," Guiao told reporters about Sotto. "Hindi naman siya nagkalat (He didn't do anything bad). He actually tried to dunk on the big man of the other team. So he's a fighter for one thing and he doesn't get intimidated."

"Ang kulang lang talaga niya is 'yung maturity ng katawan niya. Mahina pa siya saka siguro when his body develops a little bit more in one or two years, he will develop the strength together with the quickness."

(What he lacks is maturity in his body. He is still weak but when his body develops a little bit more in one or two years, he will develop the strength together with the quickness.)

An agile seven-footer would be beneficial to the Philippine team in the future, and Guiao believes Sotto can become just that. (READ: Kai Sotto admits there's tons to learn with Gilas)

"Hindi naman siya mabagal kaya lang puwede pa siyang bumilis. Pwede pa siyang lumakas so sa height naman niya, okay na yung height niya eh,” added Guiao with a hearty laugh.

(He's not slow but he can be faster. He can still be stronger because his height is already okay for me.)  

"Ayoko na nga siyang tumangkad eh, gusto ko lumapad na lang siya."

(I don't want him to grow taller. I want him to get wider.) 

Sotto and the rest of the national team have less than a week to prepare before facing Kazakhstan and Iran on November 30 and December 3, respectively, in the fifth window of the World Cup qualifiers. – Rappler.com

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.