6-foot-9 Sotto debuts for Ateneo, draws praise from mentor Ildefonso
The anticipation was palpable during an otherwise no-bearing game between two high school teams in San Beda and Ateneo on Saturday.
All eyes were on the 6-foot-9 Kai Sotto, only 13 years old, who is making his debut for the Blue Eaglets in the Filoil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup.
And to the crowd’s delight, Sotto, literally standing out and above head and shoulders over his peers, was fielded in midway through the third quarter with Ateneo trailing big.
“I was really nervous because there was a big crowd,” Sotto told reporters, who had to extend their arms, near the lengthy center’s mouth to get a clear soundbite from their phones. “I just wanted to do my best.”
“When I was inserted into the game, I made it a point that I will need to rebound and defend.”
He did more than that in limited time.
Sotto finished with four points on 2-of-2 shooting from the field and an assist in only six minutes.
“Such a big kid,” marveled San Beda head coach JB Sison upon seeing Sotto in the flesh following the Red Cubs’ 86-81 win. “Actually, he’s very promising. I think he even had four points. He knows how to play and he has big potential, he will be better.”
Sotto, son of former PBA big man Ervin, has been the talk of the town as of late ever since he participated in the Jr. NBA Philippines National Training Camp where he was named MVP, drawing praise from the likes of PBA stars and even NBA veteran Norris Cole of the New Orleans Pelicans.
Cole was in Manila as one of the coaches of the Jr. NBA program held last month.
And the latest to give his take on Sotto is former PBA star Danny Ildefonso, who is now part of the Blue Eaglets’ staff as the team’s big man coach.
While most point out Sotto’s size, Ildefonso, whose son Dave also plays for the team, is impressed with the rookie’s feel for the game.
“Let’s just wait for his body to get stronger. But what’s good about the kid is high basketball IQ. He also has a good attitude,” said Ildefonso, who won two MVPs and eight championships as part of the San Miguel Beermen. He last played for the Meralco Bolts before calling it a career just the past year.