KAI Sotto made Andray Blatche look smaller on Monday when Gilas Pilipinas and Batang Gilas held practices at the Smart Araneta Coliseum in preparation for the Seaba tournaments both teams will be competing on next week.
Sotto stood eye to eye with the 6-foot-11 Blatche before the start of practice, proof that the 14-year-old prodigy has grown by a couple of inches and is close to hitting the seven-foot mark.
“Almost seven [footer] na siya eh,” said Batang Gilas team manager Andrew Teh. “Tinabi nga namin si Blatche, lumiit si Blatche.”
Sotto’s growth spurt definitely bodes well for the future of Batang Gilas, which will be seeing action in the Seaba Under-16 Championship beginning this Sunday at the Big Dome.
Teh said Sotto’s presence has given Batang Gilas the ceiling it badly needs not only in the Seaba tournament but, more importantly, in the Fiba Asia Under-16 Championship. The winner of the Manila showpiece gets a ticket to the Fiba Asia wars.
“With Kai there, this is the tallest Under-16 na nabuo natin so far,” said Teh.
Aside from Sotto, Batang Gilas can also count on Shaun Geoffrey Chiu, who is listed at 6-6, and 6-foot-5 Raven Angelo Cortez, making up for the absence of 6-foot-9 Ethan Kirkness who decided not to suit up for the Seaba due to other commitments.
“Definitely, may factor na nandiyan si Ethan,” said Batang Gilas coach Mike Oliver. “Fortunately, nagkaroon tayo ng Kai Sotto, Chiu, and Cortez.”
Oliver also said Sotto, Chiu, and Cortez will also allow Batang Gilas to play its preferred transition game.
“Definitely, huge (sila). Ngayon lang tayo nagkaroon ng ganung kalaking player. It would also be to our advantage, especially maliit tayo. Gusto rin natin ng transition," said Oliver.
"We have to control the boards. Kapag may rebound ka, definitely, makakatakbo."