Why Kai Sotto will train in Europe, and not play US NCAA

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 27 2019 11:25 AM

Kai Sotto speaks during a press conference. Handout photo

MANILA, Philippines -- At least four European ball clubs have made offers for Filipino teenager Kai Sotto. 

And as of now, he and his family have yet to make a decision regarding where he will go.

Sotto's father, Ervin, confirmed to media on Tuesday afternoon that the 7-foot-2 center has received offers from Spanish clubs Real Madrid, Barcelona, and Saski Baskonia, as well as German club Alba Berlin.

"Totoo 'yung mga clubs na 'yun," said Sotto in a press conference held at the Marquee Tent in EDSA Shangri-La.

They are still weighing their options, with Sotto noting that each club has its pros and cons. "Halos lahat sila, maganda eh," he said.

What is almost certain, at this point, is that Kai will train in Europe instead of playing for a US NCAA school. Already, his amateur status is in question as he is represented by an agent from East-West Private, an organization based in Atlanta.

The teenager is headed there in April to begin an intensive two-month training program that should prepare him for the FIBA Under-19 World Cup and onward.

"Wala sa plano naming maglaro sa US NCAA," Sotto admitted. "May tinitingnan kami sa US na pwede niya paglaruan, pero slim ang chance para maglaro siya doon."

Sotto, himself a former professional player, explained that his son's skill set is more suited to the European style of play rather than the US collegiate scene.

"Kahit si Kai ang tanungin mo, alam niya rin kung saan siya pwedeng mag-fit," he said.

"'Yung skill set ng bata kasi," the older Sotto further explained. "Malaki siya, hindi naman siya ganoon ka-athletic pero malakas siya tumalon sa height niya, mobile siya. Mataas 'yung upside niya eh."

"So nakikita ko, 'pag nanonood ako ng mga NBA, 'yung mga lumalabas na mga European players ngayon, parang ganoon 'yung skill set eh," he added.

Sotto is the first to admit that for all of his son's prodigious talent, he will never be someone like Duke's Zion Williamson, who has tantalized NBA scouts with his uncommon blend of size, skill, and athleticism, or even University of the Philippines' Kobe Paras.

"Hindi naman siya magiging katulad ni Zion Williamson, hindi siya pwedeng maging Kobe Paras na sobrang athletic, hindi siya ganoon eh," added Sotto.

"So, nakikita ko, parang European style of play [ang sa kanya]," he added.

This works out just fine for Sotto, who pointed out that some of the best big men in the NBA right now are from Europe.

"Sa top 10 big men sa NBA, mga 50, 60% ay European," said Sotto.

This is not to say that Kai is completely closing the door on the NCAA. His father said there is a "slim chance" that he will play there, but puts emphasis on the "slim" part. 

Most likely, Sotto will be on his way to Europe after he plays with Batang Gilas in the FIBA Under-19 World Cup in Greece this June.

As for which club? "As of now, hindi pa namin alam talaga," Sotto insisted.

"Hindi ko alam lahat ng patakaran doon eh," the father also admitted. "Hindi ko rin alam 'yung mga kontrata. Yung East West Private, nagtitiwala kami na ibibigay 'yung kailangan ng pamilya ko, lalong-lalo na si Kai, so baka puwede nilang ilabas lahat ng baraha nila."

"'Yun lang naman sa akin, ilabas mo ang baraha mo para sa anak ko. Ano ba ang worth ng anak ko sa inyo. 'Yun ang gusto kong malaman," he added.

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