Filipino hoops fans are about to see a glimpse of what awaits in the next couple of decades as Kai Sotto and AJ Edu team up for the first time for Batang Gilas in the 2018 FIBA Under-18 Asian Championship in Nothaburi, Thailand.
Both players are understandably ecstatic about the prospect of excelling in the middle as they headline what is arguably the largest youth frontline formed to date.
“I’m definitely very excited. This is something that I’ve been looking forward to for a while, and I’m excited with the country as well,” Edu told members of the media during a Smart-backed practice session at Kerry Sports in Taguig.
The 6-foot-10 big man noted that he’s been meshing well down low with the 7-foot-1 Sotto in their preparation for the tournament, which is set from August 5 to 11.
“It’s building really well. It’s building at a much faster rate than I thought it would,” Edu spoke about their chemistry.
And while he has donned a Gilas uniform in the past during the 2017 Under-18 3×3 World Cup in China, the University of Toledo commit admitted that he still had to make a lot of adjustments ahead of his first five-on-five international tournament.
“At first it was a little bit difficult, to be honest. In those first few days, I was struggling a bit. But right now, I’m used to it. I’m getting adapted, getting used to the style of play and I’m really enjoying it,” he revealed.
Sotto, on the other hand, was all praise for his frontcourt partner, saying that the Fil-Nigerian’s versatility is paralleled by few bigs at his size and age.
“Si AJ kasi mas malaki, mas mahaba, mas athletic, mas skilled. Iba kasi ‘yung size at athleticism niya, ‘yun ‘yung mas special kaysa sa iba kasi ‘yung laro niya, ‘di ‘yung tipong center dahil mabilis siya,” Sotto explained.
“Magaan din siya kasama on and off the court, tsaka maayos siya kasama sa court kasi sumusunod siya sa coach at sa teammates niya,” he added.
He’s also sure that he won’t have to make personal adjustments, too, as he thinks that both of them are tailor-fit for their respective roles on the court.
“Sa pag-alam lang naman ng mga role namin ‘yun eh. ‘Di kami ilalagay ni coach sa role na ‘di naming kayang gawin,” Sotto said.
Their pairing means that the duo will be saddled with bigger expectations, but Edu isn’t sweating it as he’s focused on slowly improving on what they can, day in and day out.
“There is a little bit of pressure put on us, but I’m more excited and I’m looking forward more to the competitions than feeling the pressure,” Edu said. “I like to take it one game at a time and that’s what I’m going to do.”