• LaMelo Ball played for the Australia-based NBL in 2019, where he won Rookie of the Year
  • Filipino prospect Kai Sotto recently signed with the Adelaide 36ers
  • Sotto is a four-star ESPN recruit projected to be a future second-rounder

Filipino NBA prospect Kai Sotto's move to the Australia-based National Basketball League (NBL) has generated quite a buzz, according to the league's commissioner Jeremy Loeliger.

Sotto, who stands at 7-foot-3 and will turn 19 next week, recently signed a multi-year deal with four-time champions Adelaide 36ers, one of the nine teams in the region's top-tier league.

To Filipinos, Sotto is a high-profile player who has legitimate NBA potential. He generated intrigue after forgoing college and signing a deal with NBA G-League team Ignite, part of the league's new professional pathway program.

Though unable to see action for Ignite, Sotto transferred to Australia to start the next chapter of his young basketball career, a move described as "off the charts" by Loeliger, likening it to the LaMelo Ball signing from two years back.

"I can tell you the statistics of our reach and readership of our announcement regarding his signing with the Adelaide 36ers have been absolutely off the charts, comparable to when we announced that LaMelo Ball would be joining the league," Loeliger said, according to an exclusive report by ESPN5.

Shortly after his Europe and JBA stints, Ball played NBL hoops back in 2019 for the Illawarra Hawks, deciding to skip college as well.

It sent shockwaves to the Australian basketball scene too and definitely helped with Ball's draft stock. He won 2019 NBL Rookie of the Year honors with averages of 17 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 6.8 assists.

It ultimately led to him being drafted third overall in the 2020 NBA Draft by the Charlotte Hornets, where he is now flourishing as one of the best newcomers in the league this season.

Sotto is a four-star recruit ranked 65th in the website's ESPN 100 rankings. Mock drafts for the 2021 NBA season project him as a second-round pick.

His signing with the 36ers came in unexpected, although the NBL has been expanding to accommodate Asian professional players, allocating one roster spot for them.

Loeliger is expecting Sotto's arrival translates to marketing success and further reach across borders for not only Adelaide, but the entire NBL.

"And we saw what impact that went on to have during the season. We set new records both in terms of attendances and viewership when LaMelo was here, and we're certainly hopeful of doing the same when Kai comes and joins us next season," he said.

Among notable Americans who have suited up for the 36ers include Josh Childress and Terrance Ferguson.

For Sotto, the move is seen as a springboard for the teenager's ultimate goal of making the NBA as the basketball hotbed's first homegrown player.

Current Utah Jazz sixth man Jordan Clarkson is of Filipino heritage, who has gone to play for the country in the 2018 Asian Games when he was part of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Kai Sotto FIBA Philippines
Kai Sotto of the Philippines U19 national basketball team.