MISSING the past three training sessions due to his academic responsibilities in Ateneo, Kai Sotto is back in the fold for Team Pilipinas as the 16-year-old prodigy showed up and joined the squad on Thursday.
"Tapos na," he said in jubilation when asked how his exam week went. "Ok lang naman. Talagang nakakapagod din kahit hindi ako nagpa-practice, pero tapos na yun."
Sotto was expected to make his seniors team debut in the tuneup games against Jordan on Monday and Wednesday, but his tests got in the way of him playing with fellow young gun Ricci Rivero and veterans like June Mar Fajardo and Jayson Castro.
"Simula pa lang, alam ko na may tuneup against Jordan kaya sobrang excited ako. Eh nalaman ko na exam week pala. Hindi naman pwedeng hayaan ko yung exams ko kasi hindi rin ako makakalaro kung bumagsak ako," he shared of his matured decision of opting to turn his attention on his academics first before basketball.
"At least maganda naman ang pinakita ng Team Pilipinas against Jordan nung second game, kaso lang, yun nga, hindi natapos. Pero focus na ulit ako ngayon sa basketball kasi tapos na ang exams ko."
Luckily for Sotto, he gets another chance to play with his kuyas as coach Yeng Guiao bared his plans of getting the 7-foot-1 slotman's feet wet in the Philippines last exhibition game against Lebanon on Sunday.
"Ngayon lang siya nag-ensayo after nung exam week nila, so baka there's a bigger possibility of playing him on Sunday," the fiery mentor said. "I'm not sure if he's ready to play on Friday, so tignan natin sa Sunday, baka ok na siya."
And this early, Sotto is ecstatic.
"Gusto ko nga yung mga ganoong laban, yung mga tipong pisikalan kasi doon, hindi umaangal yung mga kalaban mo kahit anong gawin mo. Pero iba pa rin ang physicality sa mga ganitong players. Kailangan lang paghandaan yun," he said.
Sotto also doesn't mind him pulling off a double-duty on Sunday.
His undefeated Ateneo Blue Eaglets shoot for their third straight win in the UAAP Season 81 juniors' basketball campaign when they face the FEU-Diliman Baby Tamaraws at 1 p.m. at the Blue Eagle Gym, before Team Pilipinas' 8 p.m. tuneup game against Lebanon at Meralco Gym.
For the young gun, he has his schedule all figured out.
"Unahin ko muna ang Blue Eaglets ko, then sunod, ito nang Team Pilipinas," he said. "Kahit dalawang team yung lalaruan ko, all out pa rin sa parehas."