ROB Johnson, who is working with Kai Sotto at The Skill Factory's basketball program in Atlanta, believes that the young center can become the first full-blooded Filipino to play in the NBA.
"Yes. He just needs to take advantage of the opportunities in front of him and continue to improve,"said Johnson in an exclusive interview with Ken Browne of The Olympic Channel website that came out yesterday.
To make it to the big time, Sotto will have to take it one step at a time.
Sotto's first stop is to fullfill his dreams is in the NBA G League, where he will play in the Select team alongside NBA-bound talents in Fil-Am Jalen Green, Isaiah Todd and Daishen Nix under coach Brian Shaw.
The team will be unaffiliated with any existing NBA G League franchise or NBA team.
"I believe the G League will be a great challenge for Kai, but I believe he is prepared to play at that level and will continue to improve as the season develops," said Johnson.
The 7-foot-2 Sotto could also bring joy to the basketball-crazy nation if the former Ateneo high school star performs well in the G League.
"Basketball is a religion in the Philippines," said Sotto, who is a part of the Gilas pool for the 2023 FIBA World Cup which the country is hosting.
Of course, Sotto is hoping to bring Gilas Pilipinas to the Olympics that would spark a unified moment of national sporting celebration like no other.
The Philippines last qualified in the Olympics was in 1972 Munich Games behind Danny Florencio, Jun Papa, Bogs Adornado and Freddie Webb.
Johnson told The Olympic Channel website that it will only a matter of time before the Filipinos will see Sotto on the Olympic stage too.
"I think the Olympics will be a very big stage for Kai and will give the world a chance to see him represent his country versus the other top countries in the world. He will be exciting to watch on that stage," said Johnson.
After signing to play in the NBA G League this coming season, Sotto returned to training at TSF, where he's been honing up his skills since late last year.
Johnson says Sotto is a joy to work with since he joined the joined the TSF program.
"Kai has a great attitude about training. He is a gym rat. He loves finding out information to apply to his game to help him improve, Kai is very enjoyable to work with," said Johnson.
"Kai has improved his overall strength and explosion at TSF."
Bringing out the best of Sotto's talents is what Johnson is focusing right now as his much-anticipated NBA G League stint nears.
"It’s challenging for me too because i have to continue to challenge myself to come up with ways to maximize his gifts. But he is dedicated to the game and enjoys the process of working and learning so it has been a pleasure so far," said Johnson, who is impressed on Sotto's work ethic.
"Kai has great basketball IQ. He is easy to coach and understands instructions and concepts at a very high level."