KAI Sotto made his first start after coming off the bench the past two games and made an immediate impact in the Batang Gilas’ 113-46 rout over Thailand in the Southeast Asian Basketball (Seaba) Under-16 Championship on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
In need of a good start, head coach Mike Oliver put Sotto in the starting lineup and the 6-foot-11 teenager made his presence felt especially on the low block.
Though he struggled with just six points, the highly touted prospect had 10 boards and blocked three shots while also creating space for Batang Gilas shooters to help the hosts set the tone early against the Thais.
"Gusto natin ng good start e. Kai and I talked about how super relaxed niya the last two games. Kailangan na niya magtrabaho," said Oliver.
"Okay kasi na-attract niya yung defense at nagkaka-opening sa outside. Every time nandiyan si Kai, yung attention ng defense nandiyan. Instead of mag-help, stick sila kay Kai kaya nao-open yung mga shooters," he added.
Sotto, for his part, pointed out that whatever role he plays, starter or reserve, he's up to the task with what his coach wants him to do.
"Ano lang naman, si coach Mike naman iba-iba talaga starter niyan. Alam ko na pwede niya ako i-start, lagi lang akong ready, mag-start man ako or hindi, ready lang ako palagi," Sotto said.
Three games in and the prized Ateneo recruit said he's already getting more comfortable with the level of competition in the regional showpiece.
Each game, this big man's confidence gets higher and higher and that could only be good news for Philippine basketball.
"Yung kumpyansa ko na pag pasok ko sa loob ng court, confident ako lagi, every second mataas yung confidence ko. Di ako natatakot, lagi akong matapang at excited," he said.
"Mas tumataas yung kumpyansa ko kasi halos ka-age ko lang yung kalaban ko and maayos yung mga teammates ko. Malaking achievement na sa akin na maging close sa kanila, makipaglaro sa kanila and ma-line up dito sa Batang Gilas," added Sotto.