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Kai primed for success

Komfie Manalo



With a loving family, an experienced team, a supportive country and the correct mental discipline, there is no doubt that Kai Sotto has all the ingredients to emerge successful and become the first Filipino to see action in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

According to Adelaide 36ers head coach Conner Henry, the 7-foot-3 slotman has what it takes to become one of the world’s most important players, especially now that he would be competing in one of the top five leagues in the world — the National Basketball League of Australia.

Aside from signing a deal with the 36ers, Smart Communications also announced that Sotto would also serve as its newest brand ambassador as he embodies its mantra of following your dream and inspiring others.

“Kai is blessed with a family that loves him, with his father playing basketball professionally, a management team that has the experience in sending people to the NBA, a country that supports him, and his overall mental attitude,” Henry said in a virtual press briefing Wednesday.

“I believe he has all the ingredients to make it and realize his dream of playing in the NBA.”

The NBL had produced a long line of NBA players, including Al Harrington, Patty Mills, Luc Longley and Stephen Jackson. Recently, rising stars like LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton played in the NBL for one season before throwing their names in the NBA Rookie Draft.

Follow your dream
Jane Basas, SVP and head of consumer wireless business at Smart, said Sotto is the perfect choice as brand ambassador for their Double GIGA Stories because he offers a story of inspiration, determination and love for the country.

“We truly believe that Kai embodies our message as he pursues his dreams — he’s doing it not just for himself or his family, but also for the country,” Basas said.

“Our commitment at Smart is that we will be there behind Kai as he pursues his dreams and that we hope we can inspire younger Filipinos to believe that they can make this world a better place as they pursue their passions and purpose.”

Al Panlilio, president and CEO of Smart Communications and president of the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, said Sotto could be the future of Philippine basketball.
In fact, despite his young age, he had achieved so much already.

“We’ve been following Kai for a long time, since his Batang Gilas days. He can really be the future of Philippine basketball. He’s only 18 years old, but he’s achieved so much, and we’re rooting for him as he achieves his goals.”

Sotto thanked Smart for its continued support to his basketball journey since his days at the juniors program of Ateneo de Manila University.

“I’m thankful that my goal and Smart’s goal is the same, to inspire the next generation of young Filipinos. That has been one of my top goals and top dreams, and we’re on the same page. I’m looking forward to everything we can achieve together,” he said, adding that he remains loyal and committed to the country’s national team program and in its bid of competing in the FIBA Asia Cup and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

“Playing for the national team is the top goal for any athlete. I’m thankful to everyone for this opportunity, and I’m just excited for what’s ahead. Let’s all help each other succeed.”

Special restricted player
Based on his contract with the 36ers, Sotto will suit up as a special restricted player (SRP) in the 2021-22 on a two-year contract with an option for third.

NBL rules allow teams to sign SRP from Asian countries as locals so they will not be counted as imports in their respective rosters.

The four-time champion and one-time Manila visitor, Adelaide currently fashions a 10-14 win-loss mark in the ongoing NBL season that features nine teams in Sydney Kings, Illawarra Hawks, Perth Wildcats, Brisbane Bullets, New Zealand Breakers, Cairns Taipans, South East Melbourne Phoenix, Melbourne United and the 36ers.

Sotto would be with the team from October to March next year, just in time for the NBA Draft that would be held in July.