Kai is back

Kai is back

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino teen sensation Kai Sotto has returned to join his Gilas Pilipinas youth teammates in their buildup for the upcoming 2019 FIBA U19 World Cup in Heraklion, Greece later this month.

Sotto, the 7-foot-2 wunderkind, came back from Atlanta, Georgia where he spent two months of intensive training as he chases his ultimate dream to make it to the NBA by 2021 or 2022.

Easily among the best teen centers in Asia today, Sotto trained and bulked up under the supervision of renowned trainer Rory Jones and the East West Private agency during his stay at the Emory Sports Medicine Complex, the training facility of the Atlanta Hawks.

Also during his Atlanta stint, the 16-year-old Sotto even caught the attention of ESPN NBA Draft expert Jonathan Givony who expressed belief the he can make it with proper training in the US and in Europe.

Sotto has standing offers from popular Euro ball clubs like Spain’s Barcelona, Real Madrid and Estudiantes together with Germany’s ALBA Berlin. 

With Sotto back in the country, the Nationals are assured of twin giants to man the frontcourt, with 6-foot-11 Filipino-Nigerian AJ Edu arriving earlier this week from England where he is playing for the Toledo Rockets.

The two are joining Carl Tamayo, Geo Chiu, Terrence Fortea, Gerry Abadiano, Xyrus Torres, Dave Ildefonso and Bismarck Lina in the Gilas youth pool.

Meanwhile, Italy-based guard Dalph Panopio is expected to join the squad on June 18 in Doha, Qatar where the Nationals will participate in a pocket tournament prior to the world joust.

The Nationals will be mentored by veteran collegiate and amateur basketball coach Sandy Arespacochaga with seasoned high school tacticians Goldwin Monteverde, Ryan Betia, Charles Tiu, Anton Altamirano and JB Sison serving as deputies.

Ranked as the 30th best U19 squad in the world, Gilas youth is bracketed in the tough Pool C along with No. 9 Argentina, No. 15 Greece and No. 19 Russia.

The Philippine youth opens its campaign against the home team on June 29 before taking on Argentina on June 30 and Russia on July 2, needing at least two wins to advance to the knockout round.