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Kirkness & Sotto
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Twin towers set to debut for Philippines U16 in 2017

MANILA (FIBA Asia U16 Championship 2017) - The Philippines have never really counted size among their traditional strengths in basketball, which is a big reason for their naturalizing players like Marcus Douthit and Andray Blatche. Pretty soon, however, that may change, and it all starts at the youth level where the country’s U16 squad, known as Batang Gilas, is set to parade two hulking young men to form an imposing frontline in 2017.

These twin towers are 2.07m Ethan Kirkness and 2.10m Kai Sotto, both of whom will turn only 15 years of age in 2017.

“Next year, we’re planning to include them in the program,” said Batang Gilas team manager Andrew Teh earlier this year. “We’re going to have twin towers in the future.”

Kirkness, who undergoes regular training in Australia, already carries a Philippine passport, and is in Manila to visit family. Needless to say, he is very excited at the prospect of playing for the Philippines in the foreseeable future.

6'8 14-yr old Ethan Kirkness is in town training at the Moro Lorenzo Gym! #BatangGilas

A photo posted by Enzo Flojo/Hoop Nut (@thehoopnut) on

“I am very proud and honored for the opportunity, but I also feel that it is a huge responsibility,” says Kirkness, who will turn 15 in February 2017. “I hope that I measure and can be successful.”

Sotto, for his part, is a second generation player. His father, Ervin, used to play in the Philippine Baskeball Association, and the younger Sotto is currently one of the most promising high school hoopsters in the country.

“It's not every day that you see a kid who is already that tall,” according to Teh. “So we don't want to waste that opportunity.”

In 2013, the average height of Batang Gilas was just 1.82m, and their tallest players were standing 1.90m. Last year, Batang Gilas were even smaller with an average height of only 1.80m. Their tallest player, Will Gozum, stood at 1.93m. In 2017, however, the Philippines will have perhaps their biggest U16 team in history, and at the forefront will be promising building blocks Ethan Kirkness and Kai Sotto.