KAI Sotto made a memorable debut in the Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup on Tuesday night, helping the Gilas Pilipinas cadets grind out a win at the expense of University of the east and his former coach.
The teenager's big game no longer surprised Joe Silva.
“I know what other coaches feel being on the other side of things,” said Silva, who coached Kai Sotto with the Ateneo Blue Eaglets before accepting the UE job. “Naramdaman ko ‘yung presence ng Kai Sotto.”
Silva wasn’t the only one impressed by the gangling 15-year-old's performance.
Gilas cadets coach Jong Uichico put in Sotto with Ricci Rivero, Juan Gomez de Liano, Abu Tratter, and Vince Tolentino in the fourth quarter and the gambit paid dividends as the lineup went on a 12-0 finishing kick to put away an 63-61 win over the Red Warriors.
Sotto had five points, three rebounds, and two blocks, two coming off UE star Alvin Pasaol, in 13 minutes off the bench.
“Isn’t it great to have a seven-footer?” said Uichico, smiling.
More than his height, Uichico was impressed with how the Sotto held his own against opponents much older than him, particularly on the mental side of the game.
“I think aside from having a frail, frail body, I think he is a smart player. He knows what is happening. Surprising because he played the most of the fourth quarter without really making a mistake mentally. Physically, maybe, but mentally, I didn’t see him make a mental mistake,” said Uichico.
Even Pasaol was impressed with Sotto's play,especially on the defensive end.
“Talagang sobrang taas. Akala ko maiiwan ko na siya. ‘Yun pala supalpal,” Pasaol said.
After seeing Sotto up close in game situations, Uichico believes the Ateneo Blue Eaglet is on track to become one of the top basketball players in the country.
“I think he is a smart player. Kulang lang talaga is ‘yung physical attributes. He is such a young kid,” said Uichico.