Veteran coach Norman Black expresses that teen prodigy Kai Sotto took a giant leap of improvement and gushes over teaming up with 6-foot-11 Angelo Koaume, and 6-foot-9 AJ Edu to stronghold Gilas’ frontline.

/ 2 March 2021

Coach Black sees a bright future for the country’s national team after teen prodigy Sotto showcased his improvements in the last Gilas Pilipinas bubble. 

“He’s actually pretty good,” Black described Sotto upon seeing up close as an assistant coach of Gilas Pilipinas during the bubble training period at the Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.

“My personal opinion? He’s definitely a lot better than he was a year ago before he left, which tells us that the US training did him a world of good and he only needs to keep doing what he’s doing to get to the NBA,” he continued.

“Of course, he’s still not at that level to be in the NBA. But who is at 18? I mean, at that age we were all trying to get better and be good enough to play in the NBA,” added the veteran coach.

The former Detroit Piston shared that they talked with Sotto’s dad Ervin which they gave the assurance that only the best options will be instilled for the kid’s goal and betterment. 

“So let’s all be a little’s more patient. The fact that he’s improved means Kai is on the right track. And his dad is also there to look after him,” Black expressed.

Moreover, with the news of the naturalization of Angelo Kouame, Black declined to make comparisons but instead hoped that seeing Sotto, Kouame and fellow young gun AJ Edu teaming up would result in the tallest Gilas’ frontline ever. 

“Imagine a 7-3 guy teaming up with someone who’s 6-foot-9 or 6-10 plus another 6-11 player, Gilas has never been that big. And don’t forget, we still have guys like June Mar (Fajardo) and Japeth Aguilar in that frontline,” Black said.

Meanwhile, Angelo Kouame is trying to live up to the expectations to bring his A-game to the team and achieve his top agenda—being an elite player to reach the same level as PBA star imports Justin Brownlee and Chris McCullough.

“On my side, I know my work, I know what I’m getting to, I know how the learning process is gonna be for me even if it’s hard. I’m sure I can be in the same caliber as those guys,” he told The Game on ONE News on Thursday.

“I’m not really worried about whatever is going to happen, but I’m really, really thankful and super blessed that the SBP chose me as a naturalized player,” he added.

Kouame began the process in early 2020 when the SBP tapped him to be a naturalized citizen by filing House Bill No. 5951 to represent the country.

“It wasn’t that tough because I’ve been thinking about since the end of the first (UAAP) season when they asked me if I was willing to go through the process of being a Filipino,” he shared.

 “I actually had a conversation with my mother, and she was worried about the fact that I might lose my Ivorian citizenship. But when she found out that I can keep both citizenships, she was fine with it,” he continued.

“I really like the fact that I was chosen. I feel blessed about it. I’ll keep moving forward,” he said.

With these things placing on the right track, the challenge now for Black is how the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and the PBA can collaborate to make sure the best talents will be called to support these three giants in future competitions.

“We only need to surround these three with shooters, plus aggressive players like CJ Perez. But to do that, you have to get players from every PBA team like San Miguel, TnT, Rain or Shine, Ginebra and the others,” he said.