KAI Sotto believes that there's still much to be learned for Gilas Pilipinas Youth before heading into battle in the 2019 Fiba Under-19 World Cup.
One of those is composure.
"Kailangan pa namin ipakita yung composure namin pag nape-pressure kami," he said Thursday after the national youth team's tight 67-66 win over Far Eastern University in their final tuneup game before heading to their Doha training.
The Filipino boys squandered a 12-point edge, 63-51, with 5:39 left on the clock as the Tamaraws clawed their way back and got to within one.
Dave Ildefonso also botched a chance to lock the game up by missing a pair of freebies, but Gilas Youth were able to have a sigh of relief after Ken Tuffin missed his potential winner.
Sotto also took into account the home court disadvantage awaiting the Filipinos when they take on hosts Greece in their opener, fully aware of the rowdy crowd awaiting them in Heraklion.
"Yung makakalaban namin sa World Cup is Greece, so expect namin na mas maraming manonood against us at mas engaged sila. Mas maingay sila so mas engaged yung kalaban," the 7-foot-2 wunderkind said.
But it doesn't mean that the Philippines has no fighting chance.
Sotto was elated with how Gilas Youth has been executing in its tuneup games against UE and FEU this past week.
"Yung magandang nagagawa namin is yung opensa namin. Mas engaged kami," he said. "Mas maganda rin yung depensa namin kumpara nung first game namin, pero madami pa kami kailangan i-improve sa depensa. Sobrang crucial yun pagdating ng World Cup."
The UAAP Season 81 Juniors MVP had his moments in the game against the Tamaraws, none more memorable than his two-handed jam over Patrick Tchuente before following it up with a thunderous slam against Barkley Ebona both in the second quarter.
If given a chance, Sotto said that he won't hesitate doing those during the World Cup.
"Talagang nangyayari yun. Nadala lang sa emosyon kasi intense talaga yung laro. Pero kung may chance mag-dunk, bakit hindi?," he said.
Don't be fooled, though. As much as those rim-rattlers net highlights, the main goal will always be winning the game.
And Sotto vows in behalf of Gilas Youth that they will do everything to make the country proud.
"Promise namin na gagawin namin yung best namin at iaalay namin lahat para sa bayan," he said.