If you’re an NBA fan who’s never heard the name Kai Sotto, prepare yourself. He hasn’t experienced a minute of pro basketball yet, but he likely will soon. Sotto is one 2020’s top prospects, and this year he’s moving on from high school. The 18-year-old’s path to basketball stardom will be different than those who came before him in more ways than one.
Not only is he taking a distinctive journey to the NBA, but he also started somewhere no other player has before. Let’s look at how Sotto is close to making NBA history.
Who is Kai Sotto?
According to 247 Sports, Sotto is a 7-foot-2 NBA prospect from the Philippines. He came to the U.S. to play for The Skill Factory in Atlanta, a prep school designed to help prepare players for a future in professional basketball. Here’s the site’s scouting report for Sotto:
“Mobile and skilled center with good size and length. Still relatively physically mature but has done a nice job of putting on strength over last two years and looks like he isn’t close to done filling out. Just okay athletically but certainly good enough for size. Has high skill level from high post and in. Left-handed shooter who can finish with both hands in paint.”
With a skill set like that at the size that he is, Sotto would have his pick of colleges to play for. But NCAA basketball isn’t always the best route for every pro prospect.
The new experimental G-League program
One current issue the NBA faces is its model of player development. For years, top prospects had one option: Go to college and play NCAA basketball in an attempt to draw attention from scouts. There are a few problems with this model, however.
College basketball players don’t get paid. There also may be players who aren’t interested in a college education; they only want to prepare for an NBA career. In the one-and-done era, when the best of the best check-in for one year of college ball, some players treat NCAA basketball as something of a joke.
The NBA’s G-League hopes to disrupt this system. CNBC reported that the G-League has established a developmental problem for elite prospects. It would effectively function as a transitional place for top young players who are still developing their game where they could earn money.
How Kai Sotto may make NBA history
According to a release from the G-League‘s official website, Sotto will become the first international player to directly join the league next year with the hopes of being drafted into the NBA. Joining him are some other five-star prospects including Isaiah Todd, Daishen Nix, and Jalen Green. Former NBA star and current G-League president Shareef Abdur-Raheem had this to say about the Sotto:
“We’ve always had a plan with our program to recruit international players. We welcome Kai and know how big basketball is in the Philippines, so we hope he is an inspiration to the younger Filipinos who aspire to be in the NBA and the G League. We think this is just the start of attracting more international players.”
Sotto playing in the NBA would indeed make history, as he’d be the first Filipino-born player to ever appear in an NBA game. Will he be able to do it and become a superstar in the league? Only time will tell, but he at least has the G-League’s infrastructure to help support him on his journey.