San Miguel forward Arwind Santos has a behemoth of a teammate in June Mar Fajardo, but seeing Kai Sotto up close and personal still took him by surprise.
The seven-time PBA champion rubbed elbows with the 16-year-old sensation from Ateneo in Team Pilipinas’ Smart-backed practice on Monday at the Meralco Gym in Ortigas.
He couldn’t help but marvel at Sotto after watching the 7-foot-1 center soar for dunks and rebounds with ease.
“Kanina nung nagd-drills kami, parang pumipitas lang ng aratilis sa bakuran kanina. Napaka-haba niya,” he quipped.
Santos was even reminded of his younger self when he outmatched smaller counterparts when he was growing up in Pampanga.
“Parang nakikita ko ‘yung sarili ko nung bata ako sa aming lugar. Sa lugar namin malaki na ko, ako na pinakamahaba. Pero dito, parang lumiit ka ng konti. Sabi ko malayo talaga mararating ng batang ‘to talaga,” he added.
The Philippines will be hosting Kazakhstan in their first assignment in the fifth window of the FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers on November 30, and the wait from today until that game day will give head coach Yeng Guiao enough time to assess who from his 20-man pool will be ready to anchor the front court.
If you ask Santos, he thinks Sotto is ready not only for the Kazakhs but also for the big leagues — including the NBA.
“Oo naman. Kahit sa PBA, NBA pwede siya kung tutuusin eh. Depende lang sa kanya kung paano niya mas gagalingan pa. Malayo mararating niyan, sigurado. ‘Yung pamilya niyan, kung mag-advance na ng ilang taon yan mag-advance na nila kasi talagang future ‘yan,” he said.
The former league MVP even handed out some advice on what the young prospect could have in order to thrive in the basketball industry.
“Kailangan alagaan lang niya sarili niya at huwag siyang pusong mamon. Dapat matibay siya. Dito sa mundo natin, ‘di mo map-please lahat ng tao. May magd-down at magd-down sa’yo kaya kailangan huwag mo patulan. Sige lang, laban lang, ngiti lang at dasal lang,” he offered.
Sotto will contend for a spot in the final 12 against fellow bigs June Mar Fajardo, Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, Ian Sangalang, JP Erram, Christian Standhardinger and Beau Belga.