Coach Tab Baldwin praised the performance and competitiveness of Kai Sotto in Gilas Pilipinas’ dramatic 81-78 win over South Korea to secure a spot in the FIBA Asia Cup.
The 7-foot-3 finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and two assists in 18 minutes in his senior national team debut despite having to make a lot of catching up after arriving from the United States last May 31.
Coach Tab Baldwin said Sotto’s response from a slow start against South Korea’s naturalized player Ricardo Ratliffe allowed him to make most of minutes in the opener of the final qualification window at the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center in Pampanga.
“I think what we saw from Kai is a very young player who wasn’t really well-prepared,” Baldwin admitted during the virtual postgame press conference.
“But what a heart he has. First couple of times he tried to score but he was very disrupted with the physicality of Ratcliffe and what you saw was him making an adjustment. He started to deliver back, dish back physicality.
“But most importantly, you just saw the determination from Kai to impact the game,” Baldwin added.
Baldwin acknowledged that Sotto still needs a lot of catching up despite his performance but expressed confidence that there’ll be more good games the 19-year-old can provide in the future.
“You can see that he’s good for 3-4 minutes then he gets tired so I think it’s a pretty courageous effort by Kai,” he said. “But we’re gonna see a lot better basketball from him as we move forward and he’s just a very good talent.
“He’s a great, great guy to have on a team environment. He’s made himself very beloved not just to his old friends here but to everybody. And now, I think we see the kind of competitor he is because he wasn’t really ready for significant minutes in this game, but he gave us great minutes.”