Predicting the next NBA superstar is an inexact science that seems to start earlier than ever. ESPN regularly shows high school games and scouting reports circulate about these players when they hit the ninth grade — sometimes before. One prep player, Kai Sotto, has made waves as a potential lottery pick in the coming years.
What makes him extra special though is that he may carry the weight of a whole nation on his shoulders.
Who is Kai Sotto?
Sotto is a 7-foot-2 basketball prospect out of the Philippines. Growing up, his father had him watch legendary big men like Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan. His dad played professionally in their home country and helped his son work on fundamental skills like footwork.
The Philippines is a basketball-crazed country, but it has yet to be represented on basketball’s biggest stage. “There haven’t any full-blooded Filipinos that has been to the NBA, and I just wanna be the first one and I want to show everyone we can also make it,” Sotto told Bleacher Report.
Sotto came to the U.S. to develop his game and prepare for the NBA. He’s worked at an Atlanta-based basketball development camp called “The Skill Factory” under the watchful eye of its coaches. One of his tutors includes former NBA player Chuck Person. Sotto is working on both his basketball skills as well as his conditioning, preparing his body and mind for the rigors and physicality of the NBA game.
Most NBA players are larger than the average person. Many enter the league with plenty of talent. But size and potential aren’t enough; Sotto wants to use both and add to them.
How does Sotto fare as an NBA prospect?
Sotto has received high marks as a prep prospect. He participated in the 2020 Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Global Camp held over All-Star Weekend in Chicago this season. BWB has produced current NBA stars including Joel Embiid and Pascal Siakam. Its goal is to open up the NBA game to global prospects. An ESPN report noted that while Sotto was one of the most talented prospects, he had trouble making “his presence felt in the games.” The same ESPN report noted that Sotto showed issues with his “physicality and intensity.” This could have been a result of him getting used to the American style of play.
Kai Sotto’s strengths and weaknesses
Sotto clearly has the size to play in the NBA. Even though the game has revolved more around smaller players who can shoot in recent years, a 7-footer is a 7-footer. If Sotto entered the league tomorrow he would be one of the tallest centers in the NBA.
Height isn’t everything, but it’s one thing you can’t teach. NBA Senior Director of International Elite Basketball Operations Chris Ebersole noted Sotto’s other strengths include his “footwork and ball skills” in a recent interview with Forbes. These are also important skills for big men to have, especially in today’s fast-paced, offensive-focused game.
What Sotto needs to develop, at least according to his father, is his strength and conditioning. Ervin Sotto said, “What Kai needs is to strengthen his body. Basketball is a physical game so in order for him to stay in step with the best he needs to undergo intensive training to build his body,” according to Inquirer.net.
Sotto’s father is likely right. Players taller than 7-feet are often prized for their height, but they can also have trouble gaining weight and strength. One example: former NBA player Shawn Bradley. He towered over his competition but was never able to become a solid inside threat due to his relative lack of strength.
Luckily for Sotto, he’s shown plenty of promise and has time to develop his body.