MANILA, Philippines — Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas president Al Panlilio has no doubt that Kai Sotto’s game has progressed leaps and bounds since leaving for the United States to train two years ago.
Sotto is set to play for the Philippines this month in the third and final window of the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers in Doha, Qatar.
And while the anticipation and hype continue to build ahead of his Gilas Pilipinas Men’s debut, Panlilio reminded everyone to temper their expectations. After all, Sotto is only 18 years old.
“He’ll be a great addition. He’s improved a lot for sure, but you know he’s also just 18 years old if I remind everybody,” Panlilio said Tuesday during the PSA Forum.
“We can’t put too much pressure on him. He’s the future of Philippine basketball for sure, but he’s also developing as a player, as a person.”
The 7-foot-3 Sotto has made a lot of noise since moving to the US as he embarks on his journey to become the first full-blooded Filipino to make the NBA.
Sotto is signed with G League team Ignite along with other top young prospects in the US including Fil-American guard Jalen Green. Still, Sotto remains a work in progress.
“Long term in 2023 hopefully, he will be an important piece of that team in the World Cup that we’re hosting,” Panlilio said.
“So let’s be easy on him. Let’s not put too much pressure on him. He’s already pressured enough for sure. I think he’s pressuring himself to do well, all of us want to do well but let’s just support him in his journey,” he added.
Filipinos will finally get a good look at Sotto as Gilas plays fierce rival South Korea twice and Indonesia in the tournament.
Panlilio, though, would rather keep his expectations to a minimum.
“This window is not a measurement of where Kai Sotto will be and where is. But again, I see a big, bright future for Kai,” Panlilio said.
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