Philippine basketball star Kai Sotto is set to join the Adelaide 36ers of Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL).
The 36ers announced yesterday that it agreed on a two-year deal with the seven-foot-three former Ateneo High School center with an option for a third season.
“We are delighted to welcome Kai to the NBL to play with the Adelaide 36ers,” NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said. “The NBL is one of the best leagues in the world and a great league to develop players like Kai Sotto who want to take their game to the next level by playing alongside seasoned professional players in a super competitive league.”
He will be designated as Adelaide’s “special restricted player”, a clause given to Asian players in which they can join the NBL as locals.
In this case, Sotto will play as a local despite being purely Filipino.
“We are delighted to welcome Kai both to the club and the city of Adelaide,” said Grant Kelley, the 36ers’ chairman. “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.”
General manager Jeff Van Groningen, meanwhile, has high hopes for Sotto, who got to play some scrimmages for G League Ignite but missed out on joining the team during the NBA G League bubble season.
“Kai realizes that he has work ahead of him as all rookies do when coming into this tough league, but his combination of height and developing skill set gives him every chance to raise his game,” Van Groningen said. “With hard work, his ceiling for growth is very high.”
If ever, Sotto will follow the footsteps of current NBA Rookie of the Year top candidate LaMelo Ball, who saw action first for the Illawarra Hawks before the Charlotte Hornets took him with the third pick in last year’s NBA Draft.
Sotto can declare for the draft as early as next year, although he can opt to honor his guaranteed two years with Adelaide and join the 2023 draft instead.
In spite of this, Sotto reiterated that he will still be part of Gilas Pilipinas as he commits to the national team for the third window of the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers in Angeles and the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade, both happening in June.*PNA