First Fil-Am Division 1 head coach has high hopes for Kai
Mike Magpayo, the newly appointed head coach of University of California-Riverside, feels that Kai Sotto and other young hopefuls could make waves in the US NCAA.
The Filipino-American mentor, however, pointed out a delicate situation that he feels could prevent such a possibility from turning into a reality.
“That’s what I don’t know—[does] the Philippines want the player to come here for college or do you want to keep them there, develop there? That’s the tricky thing,” he said in the Coaches Unfiltered podcast on Thursday night.
“[Because] if you do want to send them here, yes, there would be opportunities. There are tons of opportunities,” he added.
It’s something that Magpayo knows by heart as he himself was also fortunate enough to catch breaks. Just two weeks ago, he became the Highlanders’ head coach making him the first Filipino and first Asian to call shots at the Division 1 level.
“You guys at home are fighting for [these athletes], too,” he said. “You want them at Ateneo … Colleges are fighting for them.”
Magpayo said he also had a similar case during his stint as an assistant at University of Columbia in New York City.
“It’s like that time when we recruited our [eventual] Player of the Year—a kid named Maodo Lô who’s from Berlin. And they wanted him, too,” he said.
Sotto, however, has opted to take the G League route, spurning college recruiters as he seeks to become the first homegrown Filipino to make it to the NBA.
The 40-year-old mentor commended Sotto’s decision to take that path, where he will be joining top recruit Jalen Green.
“I think Kai would do really well,” he said. “My coaching friends from higher levels always contact me, wanting help with Kai.”
Magpayo’s comments come on the heels of a trend. A handful of amateurs had been choosing to take their talents overseas.
Thirdy Ravena the top player out of college, has opted to play as a reinforcement for San-En NeoPhoenix in Japan’s B.League.
Then there’s Ella Fajardo, a member of the bronze-winning 3×3 national team, signed with Fairleigh Dickinson, also a Division 1 program.