KEY POINTS

  • Kai Sotto puts up 11 points against South Korea in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers
  • The 20-year-old isn't a stranger to the world stage
  • Sotto receives praise from head coach Tab Baldwin for his performance

Former NBA G-League prospect Kai Sotto pulled off an impressive outing for the Philippine national team.

Lovingly called “The Kaiju” for his immense height, the 7-foot-3 Sotto signed with the G-League Ignite in May 2020 as the Philippines hoped to finally have a full-blooded Filipino represent the country in the NBA.  `

Sotto had already been garnering international interest due to his monstrous performances in the FIBA Under-16 Asian Championship in China.

Most notable of which are his performances against Japan in the quarter-finals, where he tallied 28 points, 21 rebounds, and three blocks before putting up 26 points, 21 rebounds, and six blocks in a semi-final loss to China.

He led the tournament in rebounds and blocks per game, 13.5 and 2.5 respectively.

Before he was even able to officially play a game for the Ignite, the young Filipino opted to play for the Philippine national team at the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers.

Local news outlets reported that NBA G-League president Sharif Abdul-Rahim would be pulling the plug on Sotto’s anticipated debut, citing "challenges" that came about due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Sotto was then named as part of the 12-man roster that was set to face the more experienced South Korean squad.

Their lack of experience in the international basketball scene was evident early on and trailed by as much as 17 points before a rally led by the trio of Dwight Ramos, Ange Kouame and Sotto made the game a much tighter affair in the second half.

Timely baskets and rebounds allowed “The Kaiju” to shine through and give the Filipinos a chance to win the game with the score tied at 78-all.

SJ Belangel’s "Hail Mary" of a three-pointer from the wing went in as time expired, and the bench exploded in jubilation with the 81-78 victory on Wednesday night (Philippine time).

Sotto received high praises from head coach Tab Baldwin following his 11 points, seven rebounds, and two assists performance in 18 minutes against the heavily-favored South Korean squad.

“I think what we saw from Kai is a very young player who wasn’t really well prepared. But what a heart he has,” Baldwin said after the game. “First couple of times he tried to score but he was very disrupted with the physicality of [Ricardo] Ratliffe and what you saw was him making an adjustment.”

The Filipinos have now secured a direct qualification spot to the FIBA Asia Cup with the win and are now holders of a spotless 4-0 record in Group A.

Sotto and the Philippine team have two more games (Indonesia on June 18 and South Korea again on June 20) to showcase more of the talent that made him such an intriguing prospect early on.