Japeth Aguilar has high hopes for Kai Sotto ‘in Asia and even the world’
MANILA, Philippines — Japeth Aguilar sees Kai Sotto as Gilas Pilipinas’ core player, believing the Filipino prodigy could be a “dominant player in Asia and even the world” someday.
Aguilar, a member of the Gilas group that returned the country to the world stage in 2014, displayed great chemistry with the 7-foot-3 center as they led the Philippines to an 84-46 rout of Saudi Arabia in the Fiba World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifier last Monday at Mall of Asia Arena.
“For me, Kai, as young as he is, is already a core player of Philippine basketball. I can’t say any advice because he knows what to do,” said the Barangay Ginebra forward in Taglish after posting eight points, three rebounds, and three assists against the Saudis.
The 6-foot-9 big man, who once pursued the NBA and was drafted by the Santa Cruz Warriors in the D-League (now the G-League) in 2012, is encouraging the Filipinos to keep on supporting the 20-year-old Sotto. Aguilar believes the best is yet to come for Sotto, who was snubbed in the 2022 NBA Rookie Draft.
“Let’s just support Kai and his journey for Kai to keep growing and keep learning from his experience. I believe that he will be one of the most dominant players in Asia and even the world. He’s young, he’s just 20 years old,” Aguilar said.
The 35-year-old PBA player admitted they felt the pressure from the home crowd in their last window 4 game before finding their rhythm and tearing the Saudi Arabians apart for the last three quarters to give Gilas a 3-3 record in Group E, and allow the team to bounce back from a tough loss to Lebanon last week.
“There’s a bit of pressure playing at home. Once, we loosened up and adjusted the game plan, we found our rhythm and played focused,” he said.
Despite a string of unfavorable results from the country this year, Aguilar believes the Philippines remains one of the powerhouse squads on the continent. He sees a bright future from the young composition of Gilas, which includes Sotto, PBA players Calvin Oftana and Jamie Malonzo, Japan B.League stars Dwight Ramos and
Thirdy Ravena, and lone UAAP player Carl Tamayo, who was replaced in the Saudi Arabia game by Roosevelt Adams.
“We’re still one of the powerhouses in Asia. I’m very happy that we’re still getting these young talents. This is a different team compared to where I was in 2013,” Aguilar said.