MANILA, Philippines -- Kai Sotto's decision to sign with the Adelaide 36ers of the National Basketball League (NBL) in Australia is mutually beneficial for both parties, says Gilas Pilipinas program director Tab Baldwin.
The 18-year-old Sotto signed a two-season deal with the 36ers, with an option for a third season. He is expected to join them in time for the NBL preseason that starts in August.
Baldwin is very familiar with the front office of the 36ers, particularly general manager Jeff Van Groningen whom he called a "great basketball man."
"He really knows how to put together an organization," Baldwin said of Van Groningen during a media roundtable put together by Smart on Wednesday, where they unveiled the next moves in Sotto's basketball career.
"My first impression on the announcement was, what a great thing for Kai, and what a great thing for Adelaide, as well. So, I think this is an excellent match," Baldwin also said of Sotto's move.
Baldwin said that in the 36ers, Sotto is joining a franchise with a "tremendous history."
"This is one of the hallmark franchises in the Australian NBL," he noted. "I think this is great for Kai… They (Adelaide) did their due diligence on Kai, and he's a great young man. That's where the essence of a good relationship starts."
For the veteran coach, Sotto made an excellent decision in joining the 36ers, and in playing in the NBL general. Baldwin pointed out that the NBL has produced a long line of players who have gone on to the NBA, from Luc Longley to Andrew Bogut.
Moreover, the NBL is a league that still focuses on its big men, said Baldwin. This is a departure from Sotto's previous team, the NBA G League's Ignite, which mostly featured its perimeter players including Filipino-American guard Jalen Green.
Sotto left Ignite in late February without having played a single game in the G League.
"It (the NBL) hasn't completely gone the way that a lot of basketball has, to the guard-oriented, or guard-dominated game," Baldwin explained. "The big men in Australia still feature in their play."
"I think this bodes very well for Kai's development in the future… I think Kai's agent, Joel (Bell), and East West (Private, Sotto's management agency) has done a great job finding Adelaide," he added. "I think it's an excellent marriage."
Baldwin believes that Sotto, who continues to train in the United States, should be challenged by the physicality and the level of the game in the NBL, and this will only bode well for his future.
"I really gotta commend Kai on the maturity of the decision. Really stepping up to a situation which is going to be very tough for him," he said. "I think it is going to be wonderful for his development."
FROM THE ARCHIVES: