Tuesday evening, however, he had a tough task in front of him, as he and fellow high school prospect Carl Tamayo were tasked to take on collegiate team University of the East Red Warriors. Up against a frontline consisting of blue-collared big men, Sotto did not back down.
“Hindi naman masyado nanibago kasi lumaki naman ako na yung mga kalaro ko mas matatanda sa akin and pinaghahandaan ko naman yon,” disclosed Sotto.
And the 7-foot-1 Sotto passed his first exam with flying colors.
The 16-year-old anchored the Chooks-to-Go-backed Gilas Cadets’ 63-61, come-from-behind win, tallying an efficient five-point, three-rebound, and two-block outing in just 13 minutes of game time. Moreover, he provided the game’s highlights — including a thunderous putback jam and an emphatic block against super scorer Alvin Pasaol.
Playing in crunch time, Sotto had only one thing in mind: To give back the trust given to him by head coach Jong Uichico.
“Siyempre nagpapasalamat ako kay coach na pinagkakatiwalaan niya ako at ginawa ko naman yung best ko na hindi sila pahiyain,” expressed Sotto.
“Pero dati pa naman sine-set ko na yung utak ko na laging mas magiging mahirap pa yung basketball para sa akin so pinaghahandaan ko na bago pa mangyari.”
“Isn’t it great to be a seven-footer? Aside from him having a frail body, he is a smart player. He played almost the entire quarter without making a mental mistake. Kulang na lang sa kanya is the physical attributes,” Uichico assessed.
Safe to say, it was just business as usual for the young buck.
“Yung physicality halos the same lang naman lalo na sa ibang countries, yung ibang teams like New Zealand and Australia talagang physical sila, makikipagbanggaan talaga sila. Para sa akin naman lahat ng teams dito sa Pilipinas kahit anong school physical maglaro kasi yun nga daw yung style of play ng mga Pilipino.”