Are prospects for a Filipino playing at NBA dimmed?

There were hopes that another Philippines player would join the NBA. Kai Sotto was set to join the likes of Raymond Townsend, Andray Maurice Blatche and Jordan Clarkson, increasing the leagues of Philippines NBA players. However, this dream has been shelved for now as early this year; the NBA G League announced that they have come into what they referred to as mutual decision that Kai Sotto will not be joining the league tournament. This according to many analysts abruptly ended a promising partnership. In this article we explore the events that led to this termination of the partnership and whether the dream can be revived.

For those who may be wondering who Kai Soi is, let’s first get to know about the most promising Philippines basketball player in the 2020s. Check our author Evelyn Balyton’s profile for more insights on the NBA bet Philippines.

A star is born

The teenage sensation was born in May 2002. He is the son of Ervin Sotto, a former Filipino professional basket player and as well as a former assistant coach of NLEX Road Warriors. Kai started playing basketball at a very young age. He says that at age four he was idolizing big players such as June Mar and Tim Duncan. During his high school days, he joined the junior basketball program and at the time assisted his teams win several titles.

In 2019, he joined The Skill Factory, an Atlanta Georgia based preparatory program where his prowess in the game was further seen when on the first day he recorded eighteen points and twelve rebounds. In January 2020, he was named MVP of the King Invitational tournament where he averaged twenty-seven points and ten-point six rebounds. The following month, he took part in the Basketball without Borders camp which was held during the all-star weekend in Chicago.

Signing for NBA G League

In May 2020 he signed the NBA G League as well as joined Ignite as part of the development program away from the traditional structure. Ignite was later to join the 2020-21 season, this would have given Sotto a chance to play in the NBA, becoming the first “full-blooded” Filipino to play at NBA. However, this never came to pass as he opted to put his country first by joining the national team for the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.

Not many would make that decision, forgoing games that would put them in the limelight. Filipinos were counting on the player to put their country on the map, by having one of them joining the most prestigious basketball league in the world. However, his decision to join the national team in a crucial period when they are preparing to co-host the Men FIBA World Cup in 2023 together with Japan and Indonesia was worthwhile. It was a sign of patriotism where the player put his country above anything else. Being a young and most promising player in the Philippines and perhaps in the whole world, his future is bright. He still has another chance to play in the league.

What made Sotto loss the chance?

  • His decision to play for his national team meant that he was to miss several games.
  • The situation was exacerbated by the COVID 19 travel restrictions.
  • When he was able to return, the NBA G League informed him that he would not be eligible to rejoin Ignite. This came as a surprise to many as many had high hopes in Sotto starting his career at NBA.
  • The fact that he had not attained the required age and the period after completing High school

Having the first Filipino playing in a prestigious league was a big achievement for the country. It would have boosted their morale especially at a time when the country was preparing to co-host the most competitive international competition; the FIBA men’s World Cup. For NBA betting sites in the Philippines, this would have been a booster. Betting on a league where one of the countrymen is playing would have been one of the greatest things.

Moving to Australia

Currently, Sotto is playing for Adelaide 36ers, having signed a two years contract with the Australia NBL’s team. He is making his first debut in the 2021 FIBA Asian competition qualifiers and also participates in his first World Cup in 2023. In the meantime, his dream to join the NBA is still alive.

There had been reports that even if Sotto had returned to Ignite he would not have been eligible to play in the forthcoming NBA draft as he was not nineteen yet. He would have been eligible one year after his graduation; that is in 2022. NBA rules state that one must be at least nineteen on the calendar year of the Rookie draft. At the same time, a player can only be signed one year after high school graduation.

There are arguments that his signing for the Adelaide 36ers is some sort of preparation for the NBA Rookie drafter in 2022. This is encouraging especially for those who were looking forward to seeing him join other Filipinos in the league and also becoming the first native to play in NBA.

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