As Sotto chases NBA dream, SBP keeps tabs on him for World Cup
Kai Sotto threw his name in the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft. He faces long odds of getting drafted, but the move nevertheless represents the first step of a highly anticipated journey.
“Please pray for and support me during my quest to fulfill my ultimate dream,” Sotto wrote on an Instagram entry on Thursday that also served as a tribute to the city of Adelaide, Australia, and its club the 36ers, where the 7-foot-3 center has been playing.
His stint with the team in Australia’s pro league did nothing to boost his draft stock, but the country’s national basketball federation, aside from throwing its support to the 19-year-old talent, continues to keep tabs with Sotto’s team as they hope to have him anchor the Philippines’ bid in the 2023 Fiba (International Basketball Federation) World Cup.
“We at SBP (Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas) and Smart are all behind him in his journey of making it to the NBA,” SBP president Al Panlilio told the Inquirer on Thursday, making it clear that the significance of Sotto getting drafted isn’t lost on him. “[He will be] the first-ever Filipino to do so. We’re wishing Kai all the best.”
Sotto put up 8.5 points, 4.5 rebounds over 23 games for Adelaide. Those numbers weren’t good enough for Sotto to crack notable mock drafts but this hasn’t discouraged his team, which had been secretive on plotting the youngster’s route to the NBA until the player’s social media announcement.
There have been several players with Filipino lineage who have cracked the NBA. Robert Townsend blazed that trail and decades later, Jordan Clarkson followed suit. Jalen Green, meanwhile, was drafted last year. But, if drafted, signed and sent into a game, Sotto will become the first homegrown, full-blooded Filipino to do so in the NBA.
Though not listed in the Vietnam Southeast Asian Games-bound Gilas contingent, Sotto, according to SBP officials, remains a cornerstone for the national cage program geared toward the World Cup here and beyond.
“We still have to talk to his handlers. It will depend on the commitments of Kai,” Panlilio went on. “But they do know that we are interested in him.”
“So, schedule permitting, in one of these tournaments, hopefully, we could reel in Kai. Over the next few months, until November, we will be busy.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.