Why Chot Reyes believes G-League is 'best option' for Kai Sotto

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 09 2020 03:22 PM | Updated as of Aug 10 2020 09:35 AM

Kai Sotto at the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup. FIBA.basketball

MANILA, Philippines - Not only will Kai Sotto receive the tough training and competition that he needs in order to improve by playing in the G League, he will also place himself in the radar of NBA teams.

These, says former Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes, are among the reasons why he believes the 18-year-old Sotto made the right decision in foregoing college and instead committing to play in the G League's professional pathway program.

"For now, that was the best option (for Sotto)," Reyes said during an appearance on the "Coaches Unfiltered" podcast, presented by SMART.

"The people behind the G League are also the NBA people. The G League is an NBA project," he explained. "This is a project of the NBA, so it was good, strategically, for Kai to be there so that he's already in the NBA radar and part of the NBA family."

"We think it's going to improve his chances of eventually getting drafted in the NBA," he added. "He'll be in the consciousness of a lot of the guys who are going to determine whether he makes it to the NBA or not in the next year or two."

Sotto decided in March 2019 to train in the United States full time in order to pursue his dream of being the first homegrown Filipino to play in the NBA. 

Since then, Sotto has been training in Atlanta's The Skill Factory to hone his skills as well as to bulk up and become stronger. He emerged as a four-star prospect, and received offers from several Division 1 schools before deciding in May to instead pursue a professional career in the G League.

There, he will team up with some of the best prospects in the United States, including Jalen Green, a guard with Filipino roots who is being projected as a potential top overall pick in next year's NBA Rookie Draft.

Reyes, who is among Sotto's advisors, says the competition and training that the Filipino teenager will get in the G League will go a long way for him.

"That's why he is doing this G League thing," the coach said. "Being around Jalen Green and all that, everyday, that means he's going to get daily top level competition, he's going to get good practices."

"That's why Kai… needs to toughen up. Sa Tagalog, ang tawag doon, kailangan niya mabugbog," Reyes explained. "He needs to play against people bigger, stronger, better than he is -- competition that he'll never get here, obviously."

Before the COVID-19 pandemic closed down borders and stopped sporting events, Reyes was able to fly to the United States and observe Sotto up close. He was pleased with the young player's development, especially as he has already gained some more muscle since arriving in the US.

Skill-wise, Reyes is confident that Sotto can keep up. He praises Sotto's shooting and passing, as well as his ball-handling skills.

"For me, it's really his strength," he said. "There are some specific movements that they were working on, with respect to how he runs, his knee, the biomechanics and even his posture, his chest and all that. So those are the little things that they are working on."

"I like what I saw, I like the improvements," he added.

By playing in the G League against top-level competition, Sotto can improve even further. According to Reyes, the G League select team was set to play against European and Australian teams before the pandemic put a halt on activities.

"They have a very good schedule of games," Reyes said. "I think it's a good situation for him."

"The NCAA is still always an option. Europe is still always an option," he added. "But for now, because of the need for him to strengthen physically and to develop physically, I think the best situation for him is to get that very specific training and monitoring from American trainers."

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