THE Philippines’ 7-foot-3 teenage basketball sensation Kai Sotto will bring his talents to Down Under.
The Adelaide 36ers yesterday announced that they have acquired the 18-year old center for Australia’s National Basketball League on a multi-year deal.
“Next step on my journey this year. See you soon Australia,” Sotto posted with the Oceania country’s flag emoji on his Twitter account moments after the 36ers made the signing formal.
After two seasons, Sotto has an option for a third, following several months of discussions between the 36ers, Sotto and his agent Joel Bell.
Gilas Pilipinas national program director Tab Baldwin praised Sotto’s career move.
“What a great thing for Kai and what a great thing for Adelaide as well. I think this is an excellent match,” said Baldwin in the virtual press conference.
“This is one of the hallmark franchises in the Australian NBL and has tremendous history,” he added.
The 39-year-old Australian club boasts of four league championships.
Sotto, who has signed under the NBL’s Special Restricted Player rule provision allowing the club – and the league – to continue to build on strong relationships within the FIBA Asian region, has tremendous global interest.
Already an emerging figure within the Philippines’ national team program, Sotto’s decision to head to Adelaide is based on the Las Piñas native’s desire to develop his game over coming seasons with the 36ers and the NBL the place he believes that will be best done.
Following a period training with the NBA G League Ignite team, Sotto has been based in Florida as of late, working out with players with past NBA experience as well as strength and conditioning coaches in readiness for the 2021-22 NBL season.
“We are delighted to welcome Kai, both to the Club and the City of Adelaide. Attracting a player of Kai’s potential from Asia, and more recently the United States, to Adelaide will only enhance the Club’s reputation for identifying and developing elite basketball talent,” said chairman Grant Kelley in a statement.
Sotto will arrive in Adelaide later this year for preseason training.
“Kai realizes that he has work ahead of him as all rookies do when coming in to this tough league, but his combination of height and developing skill-set give him every chance to raise his game.
With hard work, his ceiling for growth is very high,” said 36ers General Manager of Basketball Jeff Van Groningen in a separate statement.
Among the NBL bigs who made the jump to the NBA such as Luc Longley, Andrew Bogut, David Andersen, and Mark Bradtke.
Sotto hopes to become next.
“We are delighted to welcome Kai to the NBL to play with the Adelaide 36ers. The NBL is one of the best leagues in the world and a great league to develop players like Kai Sotto who want to take their game to the next level by playing alongside seasoned professional players in a super competitive league,” said the Australian pro league commissioner Jeremy Loeliger.
Baldwin believes the decision to play in Australia will pay off for Sotto in the end.
“I really got to commend Kai on the maturity of the decision, really stepping up into a situation which is going to be very tough for him. I think it’s going to be wonderful for his development,” the three-time UAAP men’s basketball champion said.