FIBA: Baldwin tempers expectations after Kai Sotto's inclusion in Final 12


Posted at Jun 15 2021 04:47 PM

FIBA: Baldwin tempers expectations after Kai Sotto's inclusion in Final 12 1
Gilas Pilipinas center Kai Sotto.

MANILA, Philippines -- Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin believes that Kai Sotto is ready to play for the national team in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers, although he warned that expectations of the teenage center must still be kept in check.

Sotto was included in the list of 12 players who will see action for the Philippines against South Korea on Wednesday evening, in what will be his debut for the men's team.

"We already told Kai that he will be part of the team and he was really thrilled," said Baldwin.

As recently as Sunday, when Gilas arrived in the bubble in Clark, Pampanga, there was no certainty regarding Sotto's participation after completing his quarantine requirements upon his return to the country.

However, Baldwin is confident that 7-foot-3 center is ready for the opportunity.

"Kai was able to join us in a previous training bubble when we were preparing to play the games in Doha, Qatar. We accomplished a lot with him during that time but unfortunately those games were cancelled," said Baldwin.

"Naturally, we were worried about how much of that will stay with him but the coaching staff was pleased to find out that he has great retention of information," he added.

"There is a solid foundation of knowledge from his past experience with us that helped him process the new information we introduced since then."

Sotto himself said that he was quick to learn Baldwin's system, after just a couple of days of practice with Gilas Pilipinas.

He now joins newly-naturalized Filipino Ange Kouame and team captain Isaac Go in the team's frontcourt, along with former Batang Gilas teammate Carl Tamayo who also made it to the Final 12.

But Baldwin is still wary of putting too many expectations on Sotto's shoulders. He noted that the young center is coming off a unique circumstance before his debut.

"Not being able to do any basketball activities for 14 days will take its toll on anyone so there will be a bit of load management from our part for Kai," said Baldwin. "He did his best to stay in shape during that period but it’s a very quick turnaround."

"We don’t want to rush him back because, as we’ve said in the past, we cannot risk our long-term goals for short-term gains," he added.

"There will be parts in the game that we will only use systems that we have been able to indoctrinate him into, but the coaching staff believes that the positives gained by his inclusion will far outweigh the negatives. We think he's ready and he deserves it," Baldwin also said.

Aside from Sotto, also set to debut for Gilas Pilipinas in the window are Tamayo, RJ Abarrientos, and Lebron Lopez, who joined the team in Clark even though they have not yet played in the collegiate level.


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