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Kai Sotto explains decision to go to Ateneo

Ivan Saldajeno (file photo)
By Ivan Saldajeno

QUEZON CITY--During the culmination of Jr. NBA Philippines late last month, camp MVP Kai Sotto revealed that his dad, former St. Francis of Assisi star Ervin, wanted him to move to Ateneo while reiterating he was yet to commit to any high school that time.

But following some events over that week, the 13-year-old, 6-foot-9 teen sensation eventually donned the blue and white, getting enlisted for one of the Blue Eaglets' two teams in the U-17 Division of the PhilHealth-City Hoops Preseason Cup and Ateneo's FilOil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup juniors team.

Sotto, in an interview with Dugout Philippines, bared why he said yes to his father's plead.

"Maganda yung basketball program at yung aral," said the young beanpole on Tuesday, right after Ateneo Prada's game in the City Hoops semifinals.

Sotto, on the other hand, also said that joining UPIS never crossed his mind despite a viral photo that many found as a hint that he was Diliman-bound, which he clarified as just a funny moment.

"Talagang Ateneo na yung pinili ko," he added.

Meanwhile, he finds getting trained by no less than Gilas coach Tab Baldwin, who also serves as Ateneo's seniors team mentor, a privilege.

"Konti lang yung taong kino-coach ni Coach Tab. Isa na ako doon, so sobrang saya ko sa opportunity na yun," Sotto said while also expressed his desire to keep him open to further training from other skills coaches like Ganon Baker, who said that he is willing to train Filipino players who can have a shot at the NBA.

On having to juggle between City Hoops and FilOil tourneys, Sotto said, "Pinaghihirapan ang basketball, kaya gusto kong maglaro nang maglaro."

His City Hoops stint, however, came to an end on Tuesday when Ateneo Prada bowed to AMA in the U-17 semifinal at the AFP Wellness Center.

"Susunod po ako sa mga pinapagawa ng mga coach ko para gumaling pa ako at [maging] handa ako sa UAAP," vowed Sotto, who finished with seven points, four rebounds, and three blocks, at the end of his City Hoops campaign as he continues to build up for the UAAP season.

His mere presence alone in the second half, however, helped the Prada Eaglets come back from a 19-point deficit, but they lost steam in the end as the quicker Junior Titans rebuilt the double-digit edge for good.

Ateneo's FilOil juniors team will take on Lyceum on June 2 at the FilOil Flying V Centre in San Juan, and Sotto is expected to bang up against another teen beanpole, Erlan Umpad.

Follow him on Twitter: @IvanSaldajeno