Ateneo coach strives to keep 7-2 Kai Sotto grounded amid heightened expectations
"Being part of the Gilas pool is, of course, an honor and a privilege, but we tell Kai to take it year-by-year, improve yearly, focus on his studies, focus on what he has to do. He still has to work hard,” says Ateneo Blue Eaglets coach Joe Silva. Marlo Cueto

ATENEO coach Joe Silva is working on keeping Kai Sotto focused and grounded in the face of heightened expectations following the Blue Eaglets star's call-up to the Gilas Pilipinas pool for the 2023 Fiba World Cup.

The basketball world championship is still five years from now, and Silva notes there is much work to be done for the 7-foot-2 Sotto and other young guns to be battle ready.

“It makes me proud to be his coach. However, that’s still far away. Being part of the Gilas pool is, of course, an honor and a privilege, but we tell Kai to take it year-by-year, improve yearly, focus on his studies, focus on what he has to do. He still has to work hard,” said Silva.

Silva, who steered Ateneo to the UAAP juniors title in 2015, is also glad the 16-year-old Sotto and other rising stars are being given the opportunity this early to work and earn a place in the national pool.

NCAA juniors MVP Will Gozum of Mapua, Carl Tamayo of National University and Fil-Nigerian AJ Edu are among those being touted as the future of the national team, and Silva supports the program.

“Dito, hindi natin control (‘yung mga players). Pero at least, we were really entertaining the thoughts of getting high school boys at i-develop natin sila for international competition,” said Silva.

“For me, that was what I wanted before. Parang ginagawa ng ibang countries na they get a farm team,” said Silva, whose team is currently unbeaten in Season 80 of the UAAP with an 8-0 record.

As a co-host, Gilas Pilipinas already has an outright spot in the 2023 Fiba World Cup.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @reubensports