KEY POINTS

  • Filipino prospect Kai Sotto declares his intentions to enter the 2022 NBA draft
  • Sotto has been playing in the NBL after his G League stint fell through
  • "Kaiju" will need to play catch-up with other top big men in this draft class

The odds of having a pure-blooded Filipino in the NBA may finally come to fruition after 19-year-old Kai Sotto declared that he will be entering the 2022 NBA draft.

Barely a day after it was announced that Sotto was named the Australian National Basketball League (NBL) Fans MVP, the young burgeoning superstar made the announcement on his Instagram.

“I have declared for the 2022 NBA Draft. Please pray for and support me during my quest to fulfill my ultimate dream,” he wrote while thanking everyone who has supported him along the way.

For fans of the man lovingly called the “Kaiju” by the Philippine media, the question now becomes whether he is NBA-ready or not.

In May 2020, Sotto became one of the big-name prospects to announce that he has decided to forego playing in the Philippine basketball scene by signing with the NBA G League Ignite, a team composed of high school stars who are dead set on chasing the NBA dream.

However, his decision to play for the Philippine national team during the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers saw his release from the team after both sides came to a mutual agreement.

He would then turn his sights to the NBL and hone his skills there before fully making the jump to the most famous basketball league in the world.

In 23 games for the Adelaide 36ers, the 7’2” Sotto put up 7.5 points on an even 50% field goal shooting, 4.5 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks in 15.3 minutes.

His numbers do not entirely jump out, but he has shown that he can be an effective contributor on both ends of the floor as seen in his April 24 performance against the New Zealand Breakers where he tallied 12 points on 5-of-11 shooting, seven rebounds and four blocks.

Kai Sotto Philippines FIBA
Kai Sotto (11) of the Philippines U19 national basketball team. FIBA.basketball

However, Sotto has long been a top-tier performer for his country’s national team and broke onto the international scene after a stellar run in the FIBA Under-19 World Cup.

The NBA revealed the full 283-player list of prospects who applied for early entry into the 2022 NBA Draft set to happen on June 23.

Compared to standout forwards like Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren, Sotto has a lot of catching up to do.

Playing in the G League and training with the best personnel would have played a major factor in drumming up hype for his professional career, but his sense of “Filipino pride” allowed him to shine in the international scene along with his countrymen.

The NBL’s physical style of play forced Sotto to round out his lanky frame with muscle, and it translated in his ability to play harder inside the paint.

With a well-rounded offensive game plus the ability to alter shots on defense, Sotto has a decent shot at making the NBA, whether he gets drafted or he gets signed to a two-way contract if he goes undrafted.

The cliché adage of “you can’t teach height” applies perfectly to the young Filipino, and he will have about a month to prove that teams should take a chance on him.

But for now, the thought of Sotto being drafted by any NBA team is already a massive win for the Philippine basketball scene.

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