Freeman Cebu Sports

SKai is the limit

WRECKORDER - FGS Gujilde - The Freeman

If he cannot make it up there, he can down under. A basketball prodigy will be the first Filipino to play in the Australian national basketball league. May not be as big as the ultimate National Basketball Association, but still virtually impenetrable it takes a special talent to breakthrough. It’s Kai Sotto, whose growing 7’3” frame knows no ceiling, but whose ability to shoot from the range and develop an inside game had his future coach raving. He has solid feel for the game and is clever, the same coach could not stop gushing.

But he remains every inch a Filipino, his towering height a virtual fluke for a short race, his heart is taller, and bigger. In fact, playing for the national team jeopardized his chances to inch closer to the African-American territory league, although he grew an inch taller. He left his NBA G-League Team Ignite to play for Gilas Pilipinas in the third window of the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers. Due to international travel constraints and health protocols however, he could not rejoin the team where he has a clear chance to be drafted to the ultimate league.

And now, even if his entry to Adelaide 36ers is a certainty, he suits up for Gilas Pilipinas in the Olympic qualifiers in June and again, the Fiba qualifiers. Worrisome, he plays under the special restricted player rule in the Australian league that may impact on his continuing commitment to play for flag and country. Some fear he never learned his lesson, but there is nothing to learn from, representing the country is not a mistake.

Listen in, the stilt kid is telling us something. It’s not always about fame and fortune, representing the country remains priceless even if sometimes you pay a price. National pride and glory are unquantifiable, beyond compensation. History beckons. There is still so much pride to wear colors of the nation, even if there is so much in it to be ashamed of.

Beauty queens perfected the art of exuding positive image of their country abroad, until the Myanmar representative broke the delusional mold. She refused to fake her smile and cried for help. Democracy is stolen in her country. And now she is reported in peril of being jailed for speaking the truth. It does not always set free.

Wesley So thought about leaving the sport before he thought about leaving the country. Jaja Santiago is torn whether to change allegiance, even if there are too many good reasons to switch to Japan. Kai Sotto remains committed to his country even if his professional career may go awry. Beyond representation, it is patriotism.

Despite serious issues in their country, these athletes chose to be less vocal than their foreign counterparts who use their fame as platform for social justice. Ours may not be that outspoken, they only ask for better treatment. In silence. Even if it is not forthcoming, they fight for flag just the same. Frustrating. Not only in sports but elsewhere. For why would loving this country not frustrate, when sometimes doing good is punished and doing bad is protected?

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