MANILA - He may be headed to the United States to chase his dream of playing in the NBA, but Kai Sotto remains firmly dedicated to the Philippine national team program.
This, according to the teenager's father, Ervin Sotto, who guaranteed that Kai will always be available when the country needs him.
"Sabihin ko sa inyo, bali sa kontrata na pinirmahan namin ni Kai, or pipirmahan namin sa ano mang club or sa US, no. 1 priority namin ang Gilas," the older Sotto told reporters on Tuesday, after a press conference at EDSA Shangri-La.
"So anong oras man kailanganin ng Pilipinas ang serbisyo ng anak ko, expect niyo, andoon 'yung bata. Ano man, maglalaro 'yang bata na 'yan. Dream niya 'yun eh," he promised.
Kai and his father will leave for the United States in the first week of April, with Kai expected to undergo an intensive 2-month training program geared towards improving his physique and strength.
After that, he will reunite with his teammates in Batang Gilas, as they compete in the FIBA Under-19 World Cup in Greece from June 29 to July 7.
According to Sotto, their management group -- East-West Private -- is already in contact with the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) regarding the Batang Gilas program.
"Hindi ko pa talaga alam kung kailan magsisimula ang programa na 'yun, pero 'yun ang top priority namin, lalo na si Kai," Sotto stressed. "Priority niya na mag-laro para sa bayan natin."
"So expect niyo na maglalaro ang bata doon," he added.
Aside from being a key member of the youth team, Sotto has been previously included in the pool for the senior team, and has trained with Gilas Pilipinas.
The SBP had expressed its full support of Kai's pursuit of his NBA dream, something that the teenager's father was grateful for.
"Nagpapasalamat talaga kami, especially kay Boss Al (Panlilio, SBP President) sa understanding niya doon sa situwasyon ng bata," said Sotto. "Sabi ko nga kanina, kahit anong mangyari, maglalaro ang bata sa Gilas."
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