Coming home for a tour of duty

June 08, 2019

EVEN with just one glance, the changes in Kai Sotto's physique after training in the States for the last two months are noticeable.

The 17-year-old's neck has grown wider, his calves have grown thicker, while his arms are starting to form mass.

"Umalis ako dito, 210 pounds ako. Ngayon, nasa 223 na," Sotto disclosed.

Sotto, who left the country to train full time in the States last April 1, returned to the country with his parents, Ervin and Pamela, to join Gilas Pilipinas Youth's preparation for the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup later this month.

And Sotto proudly showcased his added weapons during his first practice with the squad last night. The 7-foot-1 big man could now dribble the ball from end to end amid pressure while his shot has definitely extended beyond the arc.

"Sa States, talagang nag-fofocus sila sa individual skills. Iba kumpara dito kasi dito kasama ko yung buong team. Doon naman talagang nagfo-focus sila sa akin," said Sotto after the youth team's practice held at Ultra, Pasig. "Iba rin yung competitiveness ng mga kasama ko doon lalo na kung naglaro na ng five-on-five. Sobrang intense nila doon. Ako naman, siyempre bago ako doon, hindi ako magpapatalo sa kanila."

One of the trainers that has helped hone Sotto is none other than Justin Zormelo. Yes, the same trainer that handled the likes of Kevin Durant and Norris Cole.

The second generation cager disclosed his rigid daily schedule in the States that involves strength training, game simulation, and even pool activities.

Having experienced all of these, Sotto is confident heading into the global meet that is set to be held from June 29 to July 7 in Heraklion, Greece. Though facing older competition, he knows that he has the weapons to match up against the world's best under-19 cagers.

"Ngayon na nakapag-training na ako, mas mataas yung kumpyansa ko ngayon kumpara last year. Pero hindi lang dahil sa akin," he opined. "Alam ko rin na gumaling yung mga teammates ko para sa akin at nandun din ako para sa kanila. Magtutulungan kami."

After this tournament though, Sotto will immediately head to Florida to resume his training.

"Babalik ako sa States. Training non-stop until I reach the NBA."