Top colleges fight over Filipino basketball prodigy Kai Sotto

The 17-year-old Filipino centre is attracting the interest of top American universities after gaining admirers in Atlanta

By Rory Jiwani ·

Teenage basketball sensation Kai Sotto is a man in demand.

The 17-year-old Filipino scales 2.18m (7ft 2in) and currently plays for The Skill Factory (TSF) in Atlanta as he seeks to move closer to his dream of playing in the NBA.

He has been in great form in recent weeks, averaging 27 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 4.3 blocks to lead his side to victory at last month's King Invitational in Atlanta and scooping the MVP award.

Last weekend, he was named to the first five at the Hargrave Military Challenge in Virginia thanks to 24.6 points, 10 boards and 3.6 assists per game in the two-day event.

That showing has reportedly led to an offer from the University of Georgia, the latest in a growing list of colleges interested in Sotto's services late this year.

Sotto set for college decision

While taking part at the Hargrave Military Challenge, Sotto told PhenomHoopReport and talked about his experiences in the United States and his future.

He moved to the United States in April before joining up in November with TSF, a junior affiliated programme which has produced the likes of 2018 NBA MVP and Olympic gold medallist James Harden, and Kemba Walker.

Sotto said adjusting to life in the States was "not really easy". But time has helped, adding, "I just work hard, I just listen to the people around me and it's become easier."

The obvious starting point is his height, but he has surprising mobility as well a good eye for a pass.

At least seven universities are believed to be interested in Sotto with the youngster detailing his visits to Auburn, Georgia Tech and the most successful college in NCAA basketball history, Kentucky.

Auburn Tigers

Sotto: "It was a good visit. They always say that they treat each other like family and they have a great practice facility and they told me that we're going to focus on development for helping me get stronger."

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Sotto: "Coach Josh (Pastner) is a great coach and he's been telling me they need me and, you know, it's always like that. But he always told me that he's going to give me a big opportunity to play there so that's a big thing for me."

Kentucky Wildcats

Sotto: "The coach of Kentucky (John Calipari) is a really great coach. Everybody knows him, everybody knows that he's a great guy.

I just watched their practices and I think the practices are great. That's why when you see their games, their players just really work hard. You know, Kentucky's Kentucky, they always have everything."

University of Georgia, home to the Bulldogs, is the latest to put out feelers with University of Nebraska and University of Southern California (USC) also said to be in the race.

DePaul University in Chicago is also keen with head coach Dave Leitao seeing Sotto at his home in December.

Sotto on his goals and inspirations

While Sotto could go straight from high school to the NBA draft, he told PhenomHoopReport that there was "more chance of going to college".

Right now, he is enjoying life at TSF and hoping it puts him on the way to achieving his goals.

He said, "My ultimate dream is to make it to the NBA, and I think playing here (TSF) is the best plan to make it there.

"Every game is like a test for me, a time for me to see what I can do and what I can do more. So I just go out here, play my best, play hard and mistakes will happen but the next game I can improve on that.

"And I'm just thinking that my family are always with me so I'm just playing for them and for my team also."

Sotto also loves having the backing of his compatriots as he bids to become the first Filipino to play in the NBA, adding, "It's the best feeling because a lot of people supporting you, always there for you, so that is more of an inspiration to me to keep working hard and to make them proud."

When asked about players he models himself on, he replied, "I've actually watched a lot of players like Hakeem Olajuwon, Kristaps Porzingis, Nikola Jokic, those guys. I'm just using my time to observe all of them and putting them together for me and what I do."

Olajuwon is a surprising name on that list given that he played his last NBA game a week before Sotto's birth in May 2002.

But there are similarities with the youngster demonstrating some of the footwork which made 'The Dream' - who dunked with consummate ease and had incredible mobility for a man with a height of 2.13m (7ft) - an Olympic gold medallist in 1996 and a Hall of Famer.

In 2009, the late Kobe Bryant worked with Nigerian-born Olajuwon to try and improve his game in and around the post.

Olajuwon is not a bad role model to have, and he can only improve especially when he starts to fill out his tall frame.

Sotto certainly believes he has the tools to go all the way to the big league.

"I think I can read the situations well, I can score on every place on the court and I think I'm a really good team-mate " - Kai Sotto to PhenomHoopReport