For Earvin Sotto, the inclusion of his son in the national men’s basketball team that will see action in the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers will be a major boost to Philippine basketball.
Kai Sotto got a rare opportunity to become the only high school player to represent the country in the prestigious qualifier when head coach Yeng Guiao invited him to be part of the 20-man pool.
This is not the first time for Kai to be called to play for the country.
Dubbed as Asia’s best young center, Kai anchored the national youth squad in various international tournaments the past couple of years.
He led Batang Gilas to impressive stints in the FIBA U16 Asian Championship, FIBA U17 World Cup and, just recently, the FIBA U18 Asia Championship, where they finished fourth to punch a ticket to the FIBA U19 World Cup next year.
That stretch of strong performance made Kai attractive to international scouts and coaches. One of his suitors is Real Madrid, which vowed to help him pursue his NBA dream.
Sotto said having an experience in a topnotch competition would be very beneficial to both Kai and Philippine basketball.
“I’m very proud and happy for my son but I just told him to not be overwhelmed by this fast transition in his basketball career,” said Sotto, a former Philippine Basketball Association stalwart.
“I just told him to continue his work ethic. This call-up is just the start. He is about to be a farmer, planting his crops now. He may not reap the fruits now, but he will enjoy it in the future for sure.”
Guiao admitted that he chose Kai not just to throw him against full-grown men, but to help him in his training and development.
He, however, refused to speculate whether the 7-foot-1 Ateneo juniors would make the final cut.
“With Kai, we have nothing to lose and we have everything to gain,” said Guiao.