MANILA, Philippines -- Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone joins the ranks of those who believe that Kai Sotto made the right decision in skipping college and playing instead in the NBA's G League.
The 18-year-old Sotto turned down offers from Division 1 schools in the United States, as well as opportunities in other countries, to take part in the G League's professional pathway program.
Meant to prepare him for the NBA, the program looks to accelerate Sotto's development as a basketball player while also giving him life skills training and mentorship. He joins another top prospect, Jalen Green, in playing for a Select team where they will be given elite coaching.
"Normally, I would encourage everybody to go to college," Cone said in a discussion with Nikko Ramos and Alaska coach Jeff Cariaso aired on the NBA Philippines Facebook page.
"But there are unique situations, and both Kai and Jalen are unique in the game of basketball. Right now for them, more than education… it's the ability to develop as a basketball player is the priority for them right now," he added.
"So I think it's a really good idea, what they've done."
Cone is very familiar with the G League, as he scouts the competition there for potential imports for the Gin Kings. He only has good things to say about the level of talent and coaching there, and believes that Sotto will benefit from being in that kind of environment.
"They've got a lot of development-type coaches in the G League, and the level of competition they will go against is gonna be much higher than it would be if they just went as a freshman in college," he said.
The Ginebra coach also pointed out that in the G League, all the focus will be on the growth and development of the players, as opposed to the NCAA where coaches are concerned about winning. This will allow Sotto to get the playing time he needs to be exposed to the game, which he may not get had he gone to a Division 1 school.
"(The G League's) whole thrust is just to develop these guys. Not about winning, not about losing, it's about developing these guys as players," said Cone. "They're gonna have tutors, they're gonna have everything, they're gonna have marketing people."
"It's just something that's been really, really well-thought out… His dad, his family has made great choices for him," he added. "This really, probably has the best, best chance for him to develop into the kind of player that they're hoping for. I really think this is a good decision for them."
It still won't be a cakewalk for Sotto, who has been advised to bulk up and become stronger in order to deal with the more physical play in the G League. But Cone believes that the teenager has the skill set that will translate well to that level of basketball.
"He's more along the lines of a modern center," said Cone, noting that Sotto has a "feathery touch" for a big man.
"He has that ability to roll off ball screens and finish at the rim, but he also has the ability to face up and play along the three-point line," he added. "I think he's one the right track… I think the kind of game we have now is built for his type of body."
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