May 14, 2020

PBA bigs agree G League-bound Kai Sotto next Gilas pillar

THE bigs of Gilas Pilipinas share the same sentiment that young Kai Sotto is the next pillar of the men's national team.

From veterans June Mar Fajardo to latest addition Poy Erram, just about everybody are talking about the 7-foot-2 Sotto becoming the most important big man of the Gilas program in a year or two.

"Si Kai nandun," said Fajardo, the six-time league MVP from San Miguel Beer who has been with the national team since 2013. "Sobrang ganda ng training ni Kai ngayon, baka ako pa turuan nun, e."

"For me, Kai Sotto," added Erram, the newly-acquired TnT Katropa big man, whose first stint with Gilas came during the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.

The two centers shared their views in episode two of 'PBA Kamustahan,' the new online program the league launched while the season is currently on an indefinite break due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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The second of the three-part series was shown Wednesday night, just a few hours before the 18-year-old Sotto announced on his tweeter account that he's skipping college to take his act to the NBA G League.

Veteran NLEX stalwart Asi Taulava also had Sotto in his list along with another amateur standout in Thirdy Ravena.

"Thirdy is there, too. He's coming in. Thirdy and Kai, I think they're going to be the one or two who's going to be carrying the (national) team," said the 47-year-old former MVP.

Sotto has been playing for years as the main man of the Batang Gilas juniors team, whose potential is limitless that former Gilas Pilipinas head coach Yeng Guiao listed him as part of the men's national pool - along with another youngster in AJ Edu - during its preparation for the FIBA World Cup qualifiers.

But there are also other upcoming young ones who can help the Gilas cause aside from Sotto.

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"Sa akin siguro si Isaac Go. Excited ako sa kanya. Kasi nakasama ko siya sa Mighty (Sports), naging roommate kami, and nakita ko yung work ethic ng bata," said Beau Belga, for his part, the Rain or Shine burly center being a regular Gilas Plipinas fixture.

And then there's the usual suspects.

"Siyempre sila CJ Perez, hindi lang naman sa big man pero sa mga guards din," added Erram. "We stick to those guys (din) like sila CJ, sila Thirdy, sila (Robert) Bolick, sila Kiefer (Ravena)."

Added Taulava, "We got a lot guys coming in. It's not just them. I'm excited. There's a lot of prospects out there. We just can't be closed minded about it and just be focus about it. This generation the pool is a lot bigger."

But in the end, it's Sotto who's 'the man.'

"For sure si Kai, Isaac (Go) yan yung magbabaner ng Gilas talaga in the future," said Erram.

"On top of my head, those are two guys (Sotto and Thirdy) that I'm thinking right now," Taulava said.

"The future looks very bright. We're leaving basketball in the good hands of these younger guys." (RG)