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What Does Kai Sotto Plan to Do to Make it to the NBA?

Kai Sotto's less-traveled path just might make him country's first ever NBA player.
IMAGE Cyrian Agujo
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Kai Sotto has been everywhere lately, not that he’s hard to miss. The 7-foot-2 (and still growing) teenage basketball phenom was all over the news lately after announcing his plans to go abroad to pursue his NBA dream. The question on everybody’s mind as the 16-year-old begins his journey in the US is what Division 1 college is he eyeing. The answer though, might not even be in America.

“His skillset is more suited to the European style of play. But we’re not ruling out America.”

That’s according to his father Ervin. Raise your non-lying hand if you thought Kai would consider Europe as a way to the NBA.

Kai holds up the Philippine flag at his send-off at the Ayala Museum


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Back to his roots before he leaves

Kai and his dad Ervin were on hand for their send-off activity earlier today at the Ayala Museum, where they were toured around by no less than Ayala Foundation president Ruel Maranan. Kai, through the partnership of Ayala Foundation and Chooks-to-Go, is the ambassador for the foundation’s Maging Magiting Flag campaign, which aims to encourage nationalism and love of country by distributing flags across the entire country.

“It’s a great thing to learn about our history, and makes me really proud to be a Filipino,” shares Kai.

With his immense potential and still-growing physique, the entire country is pinning its hopes on Kai to be the one to finally break the glass ceiling that is the NBA, which has eluded pure Filipino basketball players since time immemorial.

The tour of the museum, then, proved the perfect activity for Kai to get to learn more about our history, which he’ll be carrying on his shoulder every time he puts on a jersey. He got to see the dioramas of the country’s most momentous events, and even the collection of gold artifacts unearthed from different parts of the country.

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“I’m not really into museums, but I was really surprised and excited the moment I got out of the elevator. I was really impressed with the wood carvings because I haven’t seen anything like it before,” said the wide-eyed Kai.

While the rich and rare collection of historical artifacts surprised Kai and father Ervin, it was the uber hi-tech virtual reality headsets which showed a 360-degree view of historical events such as Jose Rizal’s execution that got to them.

“The virtual reality bit was really impressive, and it’s quite different when you actually see what happened them. It was really fun to learn more about that,” says Kai.

“How do you entice the younger generation to consider this museum over a mall? That’s why we’re investing in technology here in the museum. We can have the best of both worlds (learning and entertainment),” shares Maranan.

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Kai tries out the Ayala Museum's new virtual reality tour at the Ayala Museum


Laser focus

Despite all the pressure, Kai is still very much aware of what he needs to focus on. He’s achieved a lot since becoming part of the Batang Gilas contingent and the Ateneo Blue Eaglets, for which he won the UAAP Season 81 Juniors MVP award just last February.

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But he’s very much aware of the kind of skills he needs to work on if he is to get close to his dream of playing in the world’s most competitive league, which Ervin sees happening in as little as two years. Kai won’t exactly be the next Shaq, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“The goal is really to make him stronger, not just bigger. Within two years, in 2021, Kai will declare for the NBA draft. That will go by fast, so I said to him that every day really counts. But it can also be in 2022 or even longer, but he won’t stop trying to get into the NBA,” shares Ervin.

On to bigger things

The good thing Kai has going for him is support. Aside from his family, he also has Chooks-to-Go as well as Ayala Foundation behind him.

“There’s no 100% assurance that Kai will make it to the NBA, but this journey alone inspires a lot of people and that matters a lot,” says Chooks-to-Go president Ronal Mascarinas, who was also part of the send-off.

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Maranan adds: “We’re very privileged to have Kai, and that’s why I’m appealing to all that instead on focusing on the immense pressure we’re giving him, let’s focus on supporting him because once he makes it big abroad it is us, the Filipinos, who he is representing.”

The path to the NBA is a long and arduous one, more complex than most of us realize. Thousands of college players all over the world vie for a roster spot for a chance to play for one of the 30 teams who only have a maximum of 15 players each. Kai certainly has a very long road ahead of him, but his father believe’s his son’s mental game is what will actually propel him to the top.

“I told him he has everything already. He has the skills, the potential, and the support, it’s really up to him at this point,” Ervin points out. “I always tell him that it will be hard, that other players will bully him and he has a target on his back, but he always says ’I like that, because that will make me stronger.’”

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The standard is set pretty damn high, but with a mindset like this, no dream will be out of reach for this kid.

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Cyrian Agujo
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