By JONAS TERRADO
Kai Sotto on Thursday said the decision to sign with the G-League program is the best option to fulfill his ultimate dream of becoming the first pure Filipino to play in the NBA.
The 7-foot-2 phenom, who turned 18 last Monday, officially joined Fil-American Jalen Green, Isaiah Todd and Daishen Nix in the G-League Select Team after spending the past months entertaining offers from several US NCAA Division I schools.
“I have to take the next big step towards my NBA dream,” Sotto said in a lengthy statement posted on his social media accounts. “We have many options available but after much thought, I believe this option is the best route for me to get closer and faster to that dream.”
Sotto’s stock has risen since arriving in the United States last year and subsequently joining The Skill Factory, a skill and development center based in Atlanta.
The Las Pinas City native in February was one of 64 players who took part in the Basketball Without Borders program held during the NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago where he also had a chance to meet Toronto Raptors star Pascal Siakam.
Facing Siakam and other NBA stars could likely happen in the immediate future for Sotto, though that will depend on how he’ll progress in the G-League.
He is the third homegrown player set to play in the G-League after current Barangay Ginebra San Miguel star Japeth Aguilar for the Santa Cruz Warriors in 2012 and TNT KaTropa’s Ray Parks Jr. for the Texas Legends in 2016.
Sotto will play for the Select Team that is not affiliated with any NBA ballclubs. The league said getting what is termed as “select contract” is “part of a new professional path in the NBA G League for elite athletes who would like to develop their skills as a professional basketball player before they are eligible to enter the NBA Draft.”
The program gives a player a salary of $125,000 (P6.3 million) during the five-month G-League season, though ESPN reported last month that an elite prospect like Green will be paid $500,000 (P25.2 million).
“The NBA G League gives top young prospects a chance to begin their professional careers while receiving mentorship and life skills training. Sotto will have the opportunity to accelerate his on-court development as he learns NBA-style basketball,” the NBA said in a press release.
Sotto’s decision was first reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania, who also said that the NBA stands to benefit from having the former Ateneo high school standout on its G-League program.
“For the NBA, this is coup because this is its first international prospect to join the program in the G-League,” Charania said during the NBA TV program GameTime.
“This is a coup for the NBA to get the Philippine market, and he could ultimately the first fully-born Filipino prospect to play in the NBA,” added Charania.