Kai Sotto’s next step in his quest to join NBA

The 17-year-old, 2.18m Filipino is impressing for The Skill Factory as he bids to become his nation's first NBA player.

By Michael Hincks ·

Kai Sotto is taking giant strides towards realising his NBA dream.

The 2.18m, 17-year-old Filipino relocated to the United States earlier this year.

Now he is turning out for The Skill Factory (TSF) in Atlanta, and the early signs indicate a 2021 NBA Draft inclusion is not out of the question.

Impressive numbers for TSF

TSF - a Junior NBA affiliated program - boasts NBA MVP James Harden among its growing list of alumni, so too All-Stars John Wall and Kemba Walker.

With Sotto looking to follow suit, featuring for TSF is the next step in his bid to become the first Filipino NBA player.

After confirming the move to TSF on November 9, Sotto made an immediate impression when posting a double-double on debut.

The 18 points and 12 rebounds came in a narrow 67-61 defeat to IMG Academy, his first taste of high school basketball in USA.

Sotto was able to back-up that strong start with a haul of 20 points and five rebounds against Putnam Science Academy, and 14 points and seven rebounds against St Thomas More.

All three matches may have ended in defeat, but Sotto is already averaging more than 17 points per game.

Perhaps not surprising for a player over seven foot tall, but those who have worked close with Sotto will tell you there’s more to the Filipino than just his height.

‘There’s no 7’2” guy doing this at all’

Sotto’s performances for TSF are showcasing the talent coach Chuck Person, a former NBA player, has seen since the youngster’s move to USA.

“We understand what it looks like for a guy to train to like a pro,” Person, who has been coaching Sotto one-on-one, told Overtime.

“So far with kids his age he’s probably in the top two if not at the top.

“Kai has a chance to be very special, for a guy that’s 7’2” to be as mobile as he is. He can shoot, he can dribble, he can pass.

“His IQ is exceptional and I see him being a star going forward in the NBA for a long, long time. He’s just that special.” - Coach Chuck Person

These personal training sessions with Coach Chuck have certainly aided Sotto.

His height may be his defining attribute, but Sotto is determined to make that just one of many assets to his game.

Sotto told Overtime: “Chuck told me the greatest skill that can never be taught is my height, because God has given me this height.

“I’m just trying to improve everything with Chuck.”

NBA Draft 2021?

Sotto has been tipped as a potential NBA Draft pick for 2021 or 2022.

Whether Sotto can reach that level so soon remains to be seen, but the teenager certainly has time on his side.

He also has the right team behind him to hone his skills, with agent Maria Espaldon convinced TSF will boost her client’s prospects.

"TSF is one of the best prep and pre draft programs in the country and they happen to be Atlanta-based where Kai's family is now based," Espaldon told ESPN5.

"Our goal is to give Kai the experience of being able to play enough American basketball to really develop his skills and confidence even more."

College offers may yet convince Sotto to take the more traditional route to the NBA, but his long-term goal is clear.

“I want to be an NBA player, hopefully I can be an NBA All-Star" - Sotto told Overtime

“I just to represent my family and my country, because I might be the first Filipino NBA player.

“Ever since I was young I dreamed of making it to the NBA and being one of the greatest players. It would be very big for my family and the country too.”