By John Bryan Ulanday
KAI SOTTO has thrown his hat to the 2022 National Basketball Association (NBA) Rookie Draft, officially catapulting his treasured dream to become the first-ever Filipino homegrown player in the world’s biggest basketball stage.
The 7-foot-3 prodigy announced his much-awaited decision on Thursday in a heartfelt social media post, making himself available for the draft proceedings on June 23 in Brooklyn, New York.
“I have declared for the 2022 NBA Draft. Please pray for and support me during my quest to fulfill my ultimate dream,” said Mr. Sotto, who will turn 20 years old on May 11.
Mr. Sotto is coming off a decent stint with the Adelaide 36ers in the Australia National Basketball League, which he thanked for serving as a gateway to his NBA dream.
“Thank you, Adelaide. Thank you, Australia. It has been an unforgettable year,” said Mr. Sotto, who became the first Pinoy cager in the Land Down Under last year.
“To the 36ers Management, my teammates, my coaching staff and my agent Joel Bell, I am a better man and a better professional player than a year ago because you all took me under your wing and challenged and mentored me to live up to expectations.”
Despite seeing limited action (15.2 minutes), Mr. Sotto made his mark in the NBL that served as his international pro league debut with averages of 7.52 points on 50% clip, 4.48 rebounds and 0.7 blocks in 22 games.
But Australia was not the lone stage where Mr. Sotto showed a glimpse of his potential.
Mr. Sotto took his talents to the United States in 2019 that attracted interests from US NCAA schools led by Kentucky and Auburn as well as overseas programs like Germany’s Alba Berlin, Spain’s Real Madrid, Estudiantes and Barcelona.
He trained with The Skill Factory in Atlanta and ended up committing with Ignite in the NBA G League as a new professional pathway program to the NBA for high school prospects before landing in Australia.
At home, Mr. Sotto captured MVP honors for Ateneo High School in the UAAP juniors while anchoring Gilas youth to multiple FIBA Asia podium finishes and World Cup appearances.
Mr. Sotto, who debuted with the Gilas seniors team last year, is hoping for these experiences at a very young age paired up with his high ceiling to serve as his best assets in landing an NBA team.
Though Mr. Sotto could be the first homegrown Pinoy there, he would be a welcome addition to Fil-American aces Jordan Clarkson of the Utah Jazz and Jalen Green of the Houston Rockets as the country’s proud representatives.