Kai Sotto has NBA dreams and he is not wasting any second trying to achieve it.
“When should I start? When I’m 18, 19? That would be too late,” the 16-year-old Sotto said after the Gilas Pilipinas-Lebanon match late Sunday night, which the visitors won, 71-60.
“Time is off the essence,” added Sotto, the 7-foot-1 star of Ateneo in the juniors division. “So while I have the time now, I’ll start trying to improve so when the time comes (to take my NBA shot) I’ll be ready.”
Sotto certainly made an impression on one person who had been drafted in the NBA. In a near highlight reel play, Sotto soared for an audacious dunk against Lebanon naturalized player Ater Majok, who rose to block the shot.
Majok’s challenge forced the miss, but the midair contact drew a whistle from the referees.
“He got a little foul. I gave it to him,” said Majok, who showed a gesture of appreciation for Sotto’s bold attempt. “You know, he’s got a bright future. I knew he’s young but I didn’t know he’s in high school. He’s gonna be something special.”
The 6-foot-10 Majok was a 58th overall pick by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2011 NBA Draft.
“You know, NBA’s not a given,” added the 31-year-old big man. “If he works hard, I’m pretty sure he’s gonna be there. Now it’s about run, jump, shoot. So he looks like a guy who has characteristics for it, too. He should be okay.”
Sotto shared the little exchange he had with Majok before he took—and made—his free throws.
“He said ‘that was a good one!’ And me, I felt a bit bad because I was a bit short of dunking on him.”
Sotto knows, though, that fulfilling his NBA dream will take more than just dunking on fringe NBA selections. So he continues to find ways to polish a game that has grown too big for his high school setting.
Aside from working on his skills with his Ateneo coaches, he constantly gets pointers from his dad, former pro Ervin.
“We’re always open with each other,” Sotto said, adding that Ervin takes time out to answer every question his son asks and trusts Kai to make inputs into the decision-making process about his future. “It’s a big thing to have your dad supporting you.”
Most of all, Sotto takes advantage of every opportunity to test himself against bigger, older and more talented players like those in the Gilas program.
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