MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATED) Filipino teenager Kai Sotto is taking his talents Down Under.
Sotto will play for the Adelaide 36ers in Australia's National Basketball League (NBL), the team announced on Wednesday morning and confirmed by the young player's camp himself.
This development comes after Sotto left the NBA G League's Ignite program, in a mutual decision with the team. Ignite offered NBA-level coaching both on and off the court to prepare elite prospects for an NBA career, but Sotto left the team without playing a single game for the squad.
In a statement, the 36ers said that Sotto signed for two seasons with an option for a third. Sotto is signed under the NBL's "Special Restricted Player" rule that allows the club and the NBL to build on strong relationships within the FIBA Asia region.
"We are delighted to welcome Kai, both to the club and the City of Adelaide. Attracting a player of Kai's potential from Asia, and more recently the United States, to Adelaide will only enhance the club's reputation for identifying and developing elite basketball talent," said Adelaide chairman Grant Kelley.
"Kai realizes that he has work ahead of him as all rookies do when coming in to this tough league, but his combination of height and developing skill-set give him every chance to raise his game. With hard work, his ceiling for growth is very high," added Adelaide general manager Jeff Van Groningen.
The 36ers currently have a 10-14 record, good for just seventh in the nine-team league.
In the 36ers, Sotto will be coached by American Conner Henry, who briefly played in the NBA in the late 1980s. He has previously coached in the NBA G League, as well as in the NBA for the Orlando Magic.
In recent years, the NBL has emerged as an alternative to the US NCAA for elite prospects who are looking to make it to the NBA.
Notably, LaMelo Ball spent a season with the Illawarra Hawks before he was selected third overall by the Charlotte Hornets in the 2020 NBA Rookie Draft. RJ Hampton, picked 24th overall by Milwaukee, played a season for the New Zealand Breakers.
According to Sotto's agent, Joel Bell, Sotto was not eligible for the upcoming NBA Rookie Draft given that he only graduated from high school a few weeks ago. Instead, he is eligible for the 2022 NBA Rookie Draft.
In a media roundtable organized by Smart on Wednesday morning, Bell stressed that several NBA teams were interested in drafting Sotto had he declared for 2021, but he was pleased with the deal they struck for Sotto with the 36ers.
"It's gonna be a fantastic situation," he guaranteed.