ERVIN Sotto is settled in his life as grade school and high school coach, but is extremely glad to scratch the competitive itch by seeing action in minor leagues.
The return to tournament play was brief for the 34-year-old Sotto, but he was simply glad to get back on centercourt and not on the sidelines.
As a customer service staffer at Manila North Tollways Corporation, Sotto got to suit up for the NLEX Tollways team that bagged the title in the MVP Olympics.
That same team was entered in the PCBL under the name Biyaheng SCTEX but Sotto was cut because the league allows only four former professional, with Borgie Hermida, Pamboy Raymundo, Byron Villarias, and Raul Soyud getting the slots.
Still Sotto wasn't bitter even though he didn’t make the SCTEX lineup. The feeling is much different from 2012, he said, when the former PBA rookie draft first round pick was left unsigned after after a stint with Petron.
“Importante talaga ‘yung acceptance. Nung una, after ko ng PBA nung 2012, hindi ko matanggap na walang kumukuha sa akin. Bata pa ako nun, hindi ko matanggap,” said Sotto.
“(Ngayon), sabi ko sa sarili ko, mas deserving si Raul maglaro dahil bata pa siya. ‘Yung mga ganyang age, sayang. Puwede pa maglaro sa PBA. Malay mo, stepping stone na ‘to para maglaro sa PBA. Maganda pinapakita niya,” said Sotto.
Now he focuses anew on coaching the St. Francis of Assisi College elementary and high school basketball teams in its Las Piñas City campus, the school that he played for along with Ranidel and Yancy de Ocampo.
By the way, his son Kai, who at 13 already stands 6-foot-9, is also part of the high school team.
The De Ocampos and Sotto put St. Francis and NCRAA on the basketball map after getting drafted ahead of stars from the UAAP and NCAA during their day.
While the De Ocampos are still playing in the big league - Ranidel even getting a stint with Gilas Pilipinas and Yancy getting a new lease on life at San Miguel, Sotto has been out of the PBA in four years.
But when Sotto learned to accept his fate, came the opportunities to play again. Sotto was able to land a spot in the reserve line-up of NLEX a few years ago, thanks to the encouragement of Jojo Lastimosa, now one of the assistant coaches with the Road Warriors.
“Nung nag-basketball camp na ako kasama si Coach Jolas, retired na ako. Biglang sinabihan niya ako na bumalik daw ako. Kailangan lang i-reset mo utak mo na kailangang mag-compete ka uli, i-challenge mo sarili mo. Galing ka na dun eh. Uultin mo lang ‘yung ginagawa mo. Ready naman ako kung hindi ako makalaro. Ganun lang,” he said.
While he still yearns to play, teaching young players gives Sotto a different kind of satisfaction.
“Tatlong taon din ako nagco-coach sa St. Francis. Nung nagtuturo pa lang ako ng basketball camp sa Alaska, kita mo na masarap talaga magturo ng mga bata, lalo na kapag nakikita mo sila na sumusunod at nag-iimprove. May fulfillment din as a coach,” said the seven-year PBA veteran.
Despite missing out on a spot, Sotto continues to join the PCBL team, seeing a lot of potential from the lineup as they chase a PCBL crown.
“Ituloy lang nila ‘yung ginagawa nila. Sana magtuluy-tuloy ‘yung panalo. Kita naman ‘yung motivation ng mga bata. Determinado naman sila. Nandyan naman ako at ‘yung mga coaches para tumulong,” said Sotto.