SBP's Panlilio still upbeat of Kai Sotto's NBA chances

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 02 2021 05:46 PM

Kai Sotto during the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup. File photo. FIBA.basketball

MANILA, Philippines -- The president of the country's basketball confederation remains optimistic that Kai Sotto will achieve his dream of making it to the NBA, even as the teenager is in limbo at the moment after withdrawing from the G League.

Al Panlilio, president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), told Dyan Castillejo of ABS-CBN News that they are in full support of Sotto as he continues to pursue his NBA dream.

"Obviously, we know that his dream is to become really the first Filipino to make it to the NBA, and I know he's working hard towards that," he said.

That dream hit a snag, however, when Sotto left Team Ignite last week, in what the program said was a "mutual decision" between the two parties.

Sotto's decision came after he left the team to play for Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Cup 2021 qualifiers -- a plan that fell apart when the tournament was rescheduled due to COVID-19 issues. He made a hurried return to the United States, but ultimately did not join Team Ignite in Orlando where it is in the thick of its G League campaign.

Panlilio told Castillejo that as long as Sotto continues to work hard and develop, there will be a path for him to make it to the NBA.

"(He's) 7-foot-3. It's hard to find height, it's always, and he's skillful, he's athletic," he pointed out. "(He's) only 18 still, so he has a bright future ahead of him."

"As I said in the past, he is the future of Philippine basketball, so we're very supportive of his plans to really make it to the NBA," Panlilio added.

Sotto also remains committed to the national team program, and may play for Gilas in the FIBA Olympic qualifying tournament this June in Serbia. According to Panlilio, they are considering adding the 18-year-old center to the national team pool for the qualifiers, along with naturalized center Ange Kouame and a bevy of collegiate stars.

"Obviously, Kai has also been committed to the Gilas program, he said that when I spoke to him when he was here," said Panlilio. "If there's any or every opportunity for him to participate, he will." 

Sotto has yet to make a statement since the G League announced last week that he will no longer be part of Team Ignite.

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