Kai Sotto, a 7-foot-2 center, signed a contract to play with the G League next season. Sotto is attempting to become the first player from the Philippines to play in the NBA.

Kai Sotto Philippines NBA G League
Kai Sotto, a 7-foor-2 prospect from the Philippines playing in Basketball Without Borders Global Camp in Chicago. (Image: Paul Mata/Rappler)

Sotto, 18, will join a newly established team in the NBA’s developmental league. He will team up with three other top high school prospects who opted for the G League over the traditional college basketball route.

Sotto will play on the new G League team with Daishen Nix, Jalen Green, and Isaiah Todd.

After a season in the NBA’s developmental league, Sotto will be eligible for the 2021 NBA Draft. At that point, he’s expected to become the first player from the Philippines to be drafted into the NBA. At 7-foot-2, Sotto is an excellent shooter and passer for a big man. He’s often compared to Kristaps ‘The Unicorn’ Porzingis, who is one of his favorite NBA players.

Quezon City to the NBA?

At age 15, Sotto led his juniors team (the equivalent of high school hoops) to the 2018 UAAP Basketball Championship. He was named MVP of the UAAP in back-to-back years in 2018 and 2019.

Sotto played for the Philippines junior national team in various international events for FIBA and SEABA. He stood out as the best player on the Philippines national squad.

He led the Philippines to a 13th-place finish, which doesn’t sound impressive, but which marked their highest finish in a FIBA World Cup. Sotto is a huge deal in the Philippines because he helped accelerate the evolution of highly-competitive basketball. Obviously, Sotto joining the ranks for the NBA will exponentially boost basketball in the Philippines.

“Basketball is like a religion in the Philippines,” said Sotto. “You will see a court everywhere. People love playing basketball in our country.”

Sotto spent the past season with the Skill Factory, a basketball academy in Atlanta. He drew interest from several schools in the SEC, including Georgia. At the King tournament, Sotto earned MVP honors after averaging 27 points, 11 rebounds, and 4.5 blocks per game.

Sotto considered heading to Europe to play club ball with a EuroLeague team before qualifying for the NBA draft. He needed one more season of organized ball somewhere, but bypassed the NCAA. Instead, he followed the likes of Green, Nix, and Todd into the G League, where he can learn how to become a professional ballplayer before he heads to the NBA.

The Sotto Clan: Like Father, Like Son

Ervin Sotto, Kai’s father, is a former first-round pick with the Purefoods Tender Juicy Hotdogs in the Philippines Basketball Association (PBA) in 2004. Ervin played the center position in the PBA at 6-foot-7. He always dreamed of playing in the NBA, but he wasn’t tall enough.

Ervin bounced around the PBA and also played for the Shell Turbo Chargers, Barangay Ginebra Kings, Alaska Aces, Petro Blaze Boosters, and Air21 Express.

Ervin ended his career with the Byaheng SCTEX in the Pilipinas Commercial Basketball League (PCBL). The elder Sotto spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the NLEX Road Warriors (PBA).

“My father taught me everything he knows,” explained Kai Sotto. “He made me watch videos of Hakeem Olajuwan and Tim Duncan.”

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