TEEN star Kai Sotto is unfazed by the pressure that comes with playing alongside some of the best under one of the most feared coaches, saying he will work his way to a spot in Team Pilipinas sooner rather than later.
The 16-year old prodigy got a taste of the tough international play in his Philippine senior team debut against Lebanon in a tuneup match on Sunday night - and came out convinced he can compete at that level.
The kid isn't cocky, but he also isn't lacking in confidence.
“Hindi sa mahirap. Alam mo na kailangan mong pagtrabahuan. Iba ‘yung mahirap sa kaya mo pero mapagtatrabahuan mo. International players na ’to, talagang matatanda sila. Kapag binigyan mo ng effort, makakasabay naman ako kahit papaano,” said Sotto.
The 7-foot-2 center is also a good listener.
“Si coach Yeng [Guiao], sabi niya sa huddle, sa PBA daw, sakto lang (physicality) pero iba daw ‘yung physicality sa international level kaya kailangan daw magpalakas at mag-adjust," Sotto said.
"Sabi niya rin, ‘yung sa international level, kapag iniwan mo na open, kita mo naman na swak kaya kailangan mag-adjust. Sabi ni coach Yeng, ilang araw na lang, kailangan maghanda talaga,” he added.
The 16-year-old Sotto said being a part of the 20-man pool is already an achievement and he is grateful to Guiao for considering him for a spot in his Final 12.
“Masaya ako dahil kahit papaano, nasa isip pa rin ako ni coach Yeng. Nagpapasalamat ako na nasama ako sa pool,” said Sotto, who scored two points in five minutes of play and attempted to dunk over Lebanon center Ater Majok.
Ahead of the 12-man cut set to be announced in the coming says, Sotto said he learned a lot while playing alongside four-time PBA MVP June Mar Fajardo, Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar and Beau Belga at the center position.
“Marami akong natutunan sa kanya [Guiao] at sa mga teammates ko. Binibigyan niya ako ng maraming opportunities para mag-improve,” said the Ateneo Blue Eaglets slotman.