“A taller, faster Batang Gilas” for the coming SEABA Under-16 Championship.
That’s how Andrew Teh, team manager of Batang Gilas, and head coach Mike Oliver see the national youth team’s composition for the coming international cage meet which will be held in the country next month.
A standout on the squad is 6-foot-10 Kai Sotto, a veteran of the Alaska Basketball Power Camp and Jr. NBA powered by Alaska, where he was a 2016 All-Star. Sotto joined the practice a few days ago and, along with several other young, mobile big men, the team is gearing up its preparation to qualify for the FIBA Asia Under-16 Championship, which will be held from May 14 to 18 at the SMART-Araneta Coliseum.
Sotto, son of former PBA player Ervin Sotto, has joined the Batang Gilas training last Wednesday and is likely to make the 12-man roster for the FIBA Asia Under-16 Championship qualifying tournament. Indeed, Sotto’s inclusion under third-year mentor Olver will be a big boost for the national youth squad’s campaign as he will add much-needed size to the team.
“We have a taller and faster team this year, what more with the inclusion of Kai Sotto,” said Teh.
A player with tremendous upside, Sotto previously played for the Ateneo Blue Eaglets in the UAAP and turned out to be one of its vital cogs. His presence will provide the team the missing piece up front, as the national youth squad won’t have 6-foot-10 Fil-Australian Ethan Kirkness or Adamson big man Carl Tamayo to rely on.
However, the Batang Gilas squad still has several other big men, including 6-foot-9 center Shan Chiu, and 6-foot-7 frontliner Raven Cortez, which is in line with Oliver’s vision for the team.
“Basically what we wanted to field in is a taller team,” said Oliver. “A taller team that won’t take away our speed and that’s what we have right now…Before, size has been our problem. Now, we have big players who can at least match up with our bigger opponents in Asia.”
Other members of the Batang Gilas pool currently participating in the training are Lloyd Oliva of La Salle Greenhills, Ryan Yu and Miguel Tan of Xavier; Joshua Lazaro, Migs Pascual and RC Calimag of San Beda; Joaquin Jaymalin of Ateneo, Maverick Vinoya of National University, Mclaude Guadańa of Lyceum, Bismarck Lina of University of Santo Tomas, Terrence Fortea of NU, Rafael Go of Chang Kai Shek, Jonas Salandanan of Ateneo, Markus Dimaunahan of Arellano and Daniel Coo of St. John Bacolod.