The Manila Times

Kai Sotto signs with Adelaide in Australia’s NBL


FILIPINO basketball prodigy and NBA hopeful Kai Sotto is headed to Australia. On Wednesday, veteran NBA insider Shams Charania of The Athletic reported the 7-foot-3 Sotto has signed a multi-year deal with the Adelaide 36ers of the National Basketball League (NBL).

The 36ers confirmed this report in a press release, saying it came into an agreement with the 18-year-old Sotto for a three-year deal, with an option in the third and last year of the contract.

Adelaide chairman Grant Kelley said the 36ers are thrilled to have Sotto on the team, which will get the former Ateneo Blue Eaglet on board starting in the 2021-2022 NBL season. The preseason usually begins in August, while the season in October.

"We are delighted to welcome Kai, both to the Club and the City of Adelaide. Attracting a player of Kai's potential from Asia and more recently the United States, to Adelaide will only enhance the Club's reputation for identifyin­g and developing elite basketball talent,” he said.

The 36ers had Sotto signed ‘under the NBL’s Special Restricted Player rule provision allowing the Club — and the League — to continue to build on strong relationsh­ips within the FIBA Asian region.’

In a press conference, Sotto said he is filled with mixed emotions about this step he took to ultimately realize his NBA dream. For years, NBL served as launching pads for players who wish to play in the NBA. One of its former standouts in Lamelo Ball, who played for Illawarra Hawks, is now in the NBA playing for the Charlotte Hornets.

“A part of me is so excited and a part of me is nervous about this. Happy. Mixed emotions on the things that will happen in my future,” said Sotto, who is set to become the first Filipino to play in the NBL.

“I will stay focused on my path and continue developing and improving so I may be ready for my next challenges. I want to get stronger, because the strength part is really my issue to play at a higher level and to be more and play more athletic. Once I get the proper strength and speed, I think it’s easier to play at a higher level.”

Despite his new foray, Sotto said he remains committed to the Gilas Pilipinas program. In fact, the former University Athletic Associatio­n of the Philippine­s Juniors Most Valuable Player shared that he will play for Gilas in the Olympic Qualifying Tournament in June and in the FIBA Asia Cup in August.

Sotto left the country in 2019 to pursue his NBA dream and become the first homegrown Filipino to play in the league. He signed with the Ignite team in 2020 and was supposed to play in the 2021 G League season, but he left for the Philippine­s in hopes of suiting up for Gilas in the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic ultimately postponed the tournament to June, which left Sotto and the G League mutually parting ways.

 ?? FIBA PHOTO ?? AUSTRALIAB­OUND Kai Sotto goes for a jumper during a FIBA tournament.
FIBA PHOTO AUSTRALIAB­OUND Kai Sotto goes for a jumper during a FIBA tournament.
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