MANILA, Philippines – All eyes will be on highly touted center Kai Sotto next month when he makes his debut for Batang Gilas in the 2017 SEABA Under-16 Championship, which will be held from May 14 to 18 at the Araneta Coliseum.
The five-day tournament serves as the coming out party for the 14-year-old son of former PBA center Ervin Sotto, who made a good account of himself in the UAAP Season 79 juniors basketball tournament where he played for the Ateneo Blue Eaglets.
The 6-foot-11 Sotto went on to win Rookie of the Year honors and helped the Blue Eaglets make it to the Final 4, where they lost to eventual champion Far Eastern University-Diliman.
Coaching Sotto and the rest of the Batang Gilas side is Mike Oliver, who will try to lead the country to its fourth straight title in order to earn qualification to the FIBA Asia Under-16 Championship later this year.
It will be Oliver's second time to coach the U-16 squad for the SEABA tournament. He previously coached them to the title when the competition was held two years ago in Cagayan de Oro City.
"Nage-expect lang tayo na ang kalaban natin ay well-prepared papunta dito," Oliver said Tuesday in a press conference.
"(Pero) marami naman tayong shooters, and at the same time, mayroon tayong centers na matatangkad because of Kai Sotto," he added.
[We expect the other teams to be well-prepared. But we will have some good shooters, and tall centers especially Kai Sotto.]
Batang Gilas will take on four other nations in the single-round tournament, where the team with the best record takes the title.
Games will be held in the morning before the SEABA men's championship, which will feature the Gilas Pilipinas team against six other Southeast Asian countries.
The Filipino youngsters make their debut against Singapore on May 14, followed by games against Indonesia (May 15) and Thailand (May 17) before wrapping up its campaign against Malaysia on May 18.
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