A star-studded cast of supporters would be at Kai Sotto’s corner when he becomes the first Filipino to see action in the National Basketball League (NBL) in Australia.
In a press briefing Wednesday, Sotto revealed that he will be managed by noted agent Joel Bell when he suits up for the Adelaide 36ers — an NBL team that is being coached by Conner Henry with former Kentucky Wildcat Isaac Humphries as star player.
Bell, the president of Bell Sports Inc. who serves as bridge between Sotto and his management firm in East West Private, is regarded as one of the senior powerbrokers in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
He handled the careers of some former and current NBA players like Steve Blake, Mario Chalmers, Rasual Butler, DerMarr Johnson, Larry Sanders and De’Anthony Melton.
He said he is already in talks with some NBA teams who want to draft the 18-year-old prodigy this year until they found out that he just graduated from high school in the Miami School in Ohio.
“I would say that I am incredibly impressed with Kai as a person,” Bell said, adding that the future looks bright for the Filipino prodigy.
“Several teams said that he was going to be drafted and they were going to draft him. But they didn’t what spot yet since we’re still quite far from the NBA draft.”
On the court, Sotto has a veteran coach and a reliable teammate to bank on.
The 57-year-old Henry played for four NBA teams before bouncing around the world. His basketball odyssey brought him to Australia in which he served as assistant coach of Perth Wildcats and Sydney Kings before flying back to the United States to help the coaching staff of the Los Angeles D-Fenders in the NBA D-League and Orlando Magic in the NBA.
His star player in the 36ers in Humphries is also no pushover.
Like Sotto, the 6-foot-11 Humphries is also a seasoned international campaigner who powered Australia to the silver medal of the 2014 U17 World Cup.
He played college ball with the Kentucky Wildcats together with future NBA stars like Jamal Murray, De’Aaron Fox, Bam Adebayo, Malik Monk and Hamidou Diallo under the program of John Calipari.
Humphries averaged 1.9 points and 2.4 rebounds in 9.1 minutes per contest in his first season with the Wildcats in 2015 while he posted norms of 2.8 points and 2.8 boards the following year.
Interestingly, Kentucky was among the schools that recruited Sotto together with other programs like Memphis, Georgia Tech, Auburn and Gonzaga.
Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin said he’s confident that Sotto’s stock would soar as soon as he wraps up his campaign in the NBL.
After all, Australia now offers a perfect path to the big league after it was taken by the likes of Andrew Bogut and now RJ Hampton and LaMelo Bell, who was taken by the Charlotte Hornets with the third overall pick in the recent NBA draft months after playing for Illawarra Hawks.
Baldwin, a five-time champion in Auckland, said Sotto is a perfect fit for the NBL.
“When you look at the Aussie NBL and you consider the history of that league, you’ve got a litany of big men who have come directly from that league and into the NBA,” Baldwin said.
“That league does play well in the big man’s game. It hasn’t completely gone the way that a lot of basketball has guard-dominated games.”