Kai Sotto raring to face friend and rival Carl Tamayo in Japan B.League debut
MANILA, Philippines — Kai Sotto can’t wait to rekindle his rivalry with his former high school rival Carl Tamayo when the two young and talented Filipino big men make their 2022-23 B.League debut against each other on March 8.
It’s going to be a special Japan debut for the 7-foot-3 center as he and his good friend and Gilas Pilipinas teammate Tamayo kick off a new chapter in their careers by when the Hiroshima Dragonflies face Tamayo and the Ryukyu Golden Kings.
“It’s a good team and I know Carl Tamayo is there. It’s gonna be his first game in the B.League so it’s good to see him because we were kinda rivals in high school. And now we’re both professionals at a young age and it’s just a good feeling to have,” said Sotto during his introductory press conference on Thursday.
“I can’t wait. It’s gonna be a good challenge for us especially for me in my first game. I hope I can contribute and help this team. I can’t wait. I’m ready. I’m excited ever since I stepped into this country,” he added.
Sotto and Tamayo have not played against each other in a sanctioned game since February 2019,
The young big men brought the best out of each other in their back-to-back UAAP juniors Finals clashes in 2018 and 2019. Sotto emerged as the Finals MVP after leading Ateneo past Tamayo and Nazareth School to win the Season 80 title.
Tamayo then turned things around the following season, winning Finals MVP as the Bullpups swept Season MVP Sotto and the Blue Eaglets.
The talented big men teamed up in the Philippine youth and senior’s basketball team and went through different paths after high school with Tamayo playing for UP for two seasons and helping the school claim a historic Season 84 championship last May and Sotto suiting up for the Adelaide 36ers in Australia’s National Basketball League for a couple of seasons as he continued to chase his NBA dream.
Sotto is happy to somehow found himself in one league with Tamayo, who opted to forgo his remaining playing years with UP to join Ryukyu.
‘I KNOW HOW GOOD CARL IS’
“Carl Tamayo is a really good friend of mine. We were teammates on the national team a couple of times. We go way back. And we played against each other in high school,” he said. “I’m just proud of Carl Tamayo. Finally, going pro. I told him two years ago, you could already go pro right now.”
It’s an honor for the 20-year-old star to play against Tamayo in his first game, knowing his fellow Filipino big man will thrive in Japan.
“I was happy to have him as my first game. I’m excited to see him, I’m excited to play against him and I’m confident that he will do good in this league because I know how good Carl Tamayo is,” Sotto said.
Sotto’s Dragonflies are currently No.3 in Western Conference with a 28-10 record, behind Tamayo and the Golden Kings, who are 29-9. The two teams will also clash on May 6 and 7.
Besides facing Tamayo, Sotto is also elated to join Shiga Lakes star Kiefer Ravena, Thirdy Ravena of the San-En NeoPhoenix, Bobby Ray Parks Jr. of the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins, Dwight Ramos of Levanga Hokkaido, and Matthew Wright of Kyoto Hannaryz.
Sotto hopes to inspire more Filipinos in his decision to play in Japan as he continues to chase his NBA dream despite being undrafted last year.
“One of the biggest reasons why I play basketball is to be an inspiration for the younger generation. I’m the first Filipino to play in the NBL and one of the guys here in the B.League, too. I just wanna be an example to the younger kids in the Philippines that if Kai can make it, Kiefer can make it, Thirdy can make it, all these guys can make it, I can make it, too,” he said. “I just wanna give them confidence that they can go to the highest level, they can go wherever they want to go if they keep on working and keep on believing in themselves.”