FIRST PINOY IN THE NBA | KAI SOTTO EDITION



Kai Sotto is doing something cool…

… and going against everything we Filipinos stand for.

What?

I hate going political with regard to writing activities.

With that said…

I hate the “K to 12” program.

I refuse to believe that I had a subpar education. Honestly, I thought the plan was hastily-conceived and it failed to deliver in several aspects. It does nothing to a person who has zero plans to venture on work opportunities abroad… and is walking to a makeshift school bare-footed. Instead of adding two more years… why can’t we just improve the curriculum? Or instead of those additional years, why can’t we just let indigenous people proper venues to hold their school-related activities?

Instead of two years of added effort, how about two years of compulsory practical application?

Also, most powerful figures combine book smarts with street smarts.

Under the said system, people can find work after high school – just like the American educational system.

I don’t want to sound like a douche bag but why would an employer pick a high school graduate if there are college graduates available? Even if the high school is a genius or a hardworking asset, he got his merits via experience and not because he went to some awesome educational institution.

With that said, K to 12 works for Kai Sotto… and I guess to potential Filipino NBA players moving forward.

I don’t think Sotto did K to 12 but at the moment, he’s enjoying a chance to earn an NBA roster spot via the NBA G-League select team. The 7’2 beanpole will join Fil-Am Jalen Green in the squad.

Sotto, son of former St. Francis Dove, Welcoat Paint Master, and Shell Turbo Charger Ervin Sotto (among other teams), has already graduated from high school and instead of going to the UAAP or NCAA or even the US NCAA, the 18-year-old is studying at The Skill Factory in Georgia. As per their website that looks nothing like a traditional educational institution (more of a rap label, actually), TSF is a sports skill and development organization that specializes in high-quality custom sports coaching and skill training programs… in all caps.

I doubt if this is anything like Harvard.

So a couple of years ago when I was still writing for NBA Philippines, I thought of ways on how a Filipino can make the NBA.

Obviously, the best way is to play for Gilas Pilipinas.

However, the G-League may have opened a new route.

Regardless, education takes a backseat.

What?

I am a bad person to say this… but this is kind of true… at least to a potential basketball Hall of Famer.

Ricky Rubio started this trend and Luka Doncic made it a must for international athletes to gain pro exposure early. Both players were in their tweens when they tried to play against men and it did wonders for their careers.

Kobe Bryant and LeBron James – two of the most influential players of the 2000s, were barely out of high school when they debuted in the NBA.

Bobby Ray Parks is a classic example of a potential NBA player with a failed NBA opportunity. From Georgia Tech, Parks moved to National University thereby distancing himself from the NBA scouts.

Kiefer Ravena is another example. Sure, Ravena exemplified mad skills but he is in his early 20s when he graduated from Ateneo and when he looked for opportunities outside the Philippines. This is why you can’t blame Thirdy Ravena for skipping the PBA and trying to salvage an international career because the 6’2 combo guard is already 23 years old.

Kobe Paras is another potential NBA player whose career almost went bye-bye because American college basketball did not give him a fair shake.

Japeth Aguilar, the first Filipino to get selected in the NBA D-League, would have succeeded if he had the proper guidance. Just imagine if the Japeth of old combined with the basketball savvy and maturity of its current version.

Also, just imagine Japeth Aguilar’s basketball career if he didn’t spend a couple of years in Western Kentucky and went straight to a G-League training camp?


Instead of helping, Western Kentucky kind of messed up his development.


Agree to disagree?

At 18 years old, Sotto is trying to absorb American basketball. At this stage of his career, he has made stops in various meets and tourneys that are prepping him for the NBA. For the first time in years, a Pinoy player is making a serious case to play in this grand stage and it’s not just because he’s living in America… or is a point guard… or is playing in a Division I school.

And this is the other thing I think I need to address. US NCAA is not that big of a deal anymore. Green is a top-five draft prospect and he would rather play in the G-League select squad than go to North Carolina, Kentucky, and Duke. LaMelo Ball is another case of an NBA prospect going elsewhere than prying his craft in college b-ball. NBA executives have veered away from four-year players and would rather go for one-and-done prospects.


The last ten first overall picks of the NBA Draft (John Wall, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Davis, Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, DeAndre Ayton, Zion Williamson) are all freshmen!


It’s a sad state for education but it is just the way it works now in regard to basketball awesomeness.

In the Philippines, you don’t see high school players skipping their tertiary education.

And this is the problem.

Kerby Raymundo is the last tween to play in the PBA as part of Red Bull’s elevated PBL lineup. Raymundo would then forfeit his rookie year because he falsified his high school documents. Abe King and Terry Saldana are amongst the notables that saw action in the PBA in their tweens as well.

After Raymundo, we have the likes of Beau Belga and Terrence Romeo who entered the league when they were only 21.

If you think about it, 21 years of age is kind of old for an NBA prospect… especially when you’re an international prospect.

Zhao Qi, the last Chinese player to play in the NBA, is only 20 when the Houston Rockets selected him 46th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft. He has been playing for the CBA’s Xinjiang Flying Tigers since 2014 and had to wait for a year before signing with the Rockets. Furthermore, Zhao attended a basketball school when he is just eleven years old.


There is a reason why a 34-year-old Tracy McGrady is deemed untouchable by NBA teams. It's not the same reason why a 34-year-old Sean Anthony won Mythical First Team honors in the 2018-19 PBA season though. A typical NBA career starts around the 20 to 21-year-old mark whereas in the PBA, the minimum age of entry is 21 but most applicants are at the 23 to 25 age range. Furthermore, three of the PBA's last top overall picks are now in their 30s (Stanley Pringle, Mo Tautuaa, and Christian Standhardinger).

E-sports may be a bad mention in a basketball-related blog but Pinoy DOTA 2 player Kuku had this interview a couple of years back in which he said he's getting a significant amount of cash concentrating on the sport he loves... and with education taking a backseat.

Perhaps a good move to globalize the sport is to have the PBA bring down their requirements from college graduates to high school graduates. I am sure school officials and politicians will reject this idea but in case Kai Sotto succeeds, maybe it could act as a precedent.


The PBA can always home school their athletes and impose sanctions for futility like how Ateneo grounded the likes of Thirdy, CJ Perez, and Ryan Buenafe because of their academic deficiencies.

If an NBA career is out of the question, he is already a “made man” with a contract that is in the range of ten million pesos or higher.

But that’s not the case.

Barring injuries, Sotto is already a second-round NBA prospect because of his potential. He is far from the basketball players who would rather do dipsy-doos. Sotto knows how to move on the inside and he has a decent range. He's basically our version of Kristaps Porzingis if you think about it. Right now, he may have confidence issues going against American prospects but he is also a 7’2 marketing spectacle.

Whoever gets him in the draft could either have a goldmine or a fan favorite.

For sure, Filipino fans will order a bunch of jerseys that has his name on it.

Unlike Zhao or even Wang Zhizhi, Mengke Bateer, and Yao Ming, language is not going to be an issue for Sotto.

And as per our country’s drive to international awesomeness, the Philippines will have an awesome time parading its first full-pledged NBA player in the 2023 FIBA World Cup. If Sotto applies for the 2021 NBA Draft, the mere fact of him getting selected will send shockwaves to the Filipino basketball fanbase.

Get Sydrified.

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