WHAT NEXT?

Kai Sotto recently became the first international player in the draft prospect program of the G League.

And while that is welcome news from a point of view of this cage-crazy nation—with the 7-foot-2 Sotto nearing his goal of becoming the first full-blooded Filipino to make the NBA—this latest development in his career does not really put the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) at ease.

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Not one bit.

“Well, we’re still assuming that he will be available for [the] Gilas [Pilipinas program],” SBP president Al Panlilio told the Inquirer over the phone on Wednesday night. “He has consistently told us (SBP officials) that he will be available, but [after] this [development], we really do not know what will happen next.”

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Panlilio is worried about the scheduling conflicts that could crop up now that Sotto has decided to skip college and join three other top young prospects in the G League program. Sotto had offers to play NCAA ball in the United States, with even Georgia Tech going to lengths in wooing him.

Like Blatche

“It will now all depend on the G League schedule. What could happen is that he will be like Andray [Blatche], with whom we had a lot of scheduling conflicts because of his [other tournament] commitments,” Panlilio went on.

There is reason to worry about scheduling conflicts, what with the Philippines a cohost for the 2023 World Cup. The SBP will spend a lot of time whipping up a team for that tournament and Sotto figures prominently in those plans. The World Cup, which the Philippines will cohost with Indonesia and Japan, will run from Aug. 25 to Sept. 10, 2023. While that is a long time from now, training camps and foreign tournament participation could cross paths with Sotto’s G League schedule.

“And as you know, when you prepare the national team for big international tournaments, time [together with the team] is very important,” Panlilio said.

12th best

Sotto, who turned 18 years old on Monday, is listed as a four-star prospect and the 12th best center in the 2020 class by 247Sports’ composite ranking, according to a Bleacher Report story that broke the news on Monday.

The same report practically said why Sotto is forgoing the chance to earn a college diploma as he will “receive over $500,000 as part of the one-year program” that also lured Fil-Am Jalen Green out of the US NCAA.The G League now stands as the official minor league organization of the NBA, and Sotto, like Green, will have NBA scouts and coaching looking at him all throughout the tournament.

“If he progresses—from a basketball point of view—I will be very happy for him,” Panlilio said. “And if he does go on to make the NBA, then that would be a momentous occasion for our country.”

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Sotto has signed with East West, a management group that also handles Blatche, and Panlilio said that the SBP has had to go through the prodigy’s representatives now, unlike before.New layer

“There’s a layer now between us (SBP) and Kai,” Panlilio said. “That’s why we never had an idea that he already signed with the G League. We weren’t consulted and we only found that out through [Bleacher Report].”

Panlilio is expected to reach out to Sotto to clarify his plans as the SBP moves to make sure it can field the best team possible for the World Cup.

And without a doubt, Sotto needs to be on that team.

The talented youngster joins Green, Isaiah Todd and Daishen Nix in the G League program and has been very vocal about his NBA dream.

“There hasn’t been any full-blooded Filipino that has been to the NBA and I just want to be the first one, and I just want to show everyone that we can also make it,” he told Bleacher Report.

Sotto has also said numerous times he plans to represent the country in major meets.

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