MANILA, Philippines -- Kai Sotto's decision to skip college and instead play in the NBA G League was met with support from his former coach and teammate in the Ateneo Blue Eaglets.
Sotto took another step towards his goal of becoming the first homegrown Filipino player in the NBA by joining the G League's professional pathway program, where he will get to play with other top prospects including Jalen Green and Daishen Nix.
In the G League, Sotto will be coached both on and off the court, in the hopes of preparing him for life in the NBA.
"I'm always proud of him," said former Ateneo Blue Eaglets coach Joe Silva, in a video posted by The Collective. "Sobrang layo ng narating niya."
Silva was Sotto's coach when he led the Blue Eaglets to the UAAP juniors championship in Season 80. A season later, Sotto would team up with Forthsky Padrigao to bring the Eaglets back to the Finals, where they lost to Nazareth School of National University in a rematch. Sotto was the Season 81 MVP, and Padrigao joined him in the Mythical Team.
The young guard says that Sotto will have to bulk up before playing in the G League, because he will be up against bigger, tougher players with more experience than he has. But Padrigao has no doubt that Sotto can do it.
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"Tiwala naman ako kay Kai. Matalinong player si Kai, skilled, kaya wala ka nang po-problemahin doon," said Padrigao. "Talagang 'yung katawan niya na lang talaga."
Silva agreed that Sotto's basketball IQ and skill will serve him well in the G League. The coach noted that those attributes -- and not his towering height -- set Sotto apart during his high school years in the UAAP.
"What impressed me the most was his skill, his IQ. His basketball intelligence -- how he would read plays, how he would do this. Grabe, he was leaps and bounds above everyone else," Silva said.
"Yes, he's tall. But his IQ is … amazing talaga," he added.
For Silva, what Sotto needs to do is to fine-tune his footwork so he can be better on the defensive end of the floor.
"The way he runs pa rin. I think, from the highlights I see, from his games when I watch, naiiwan pa rin siya sa pick-and-roll. When his opponents set him up sa pick-and-roll, naiiwan pa rin siya," he observed.
But like Padrigao, Silva is confident that Sotto has the skills and the talent to make his NBA dreams come true.
"He had all the skills naman," said the coach. "It's a matter of harnessing them, it's a matter of making them, polishing them more."
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).