Sports

Stepping closer

By: - 05/26/2020

Photo: FIBA

HABANG lumalapit si Kai Sotto sa pag-abot ng pangarap, lumalapit din ang Pilipinas sa pagkakaroon ng kauna-unahang homegrown Filipino na makapaglalaro sa National Basketball Association (NBA).

Nagdesisyon ang 7-foot-2 teenage star na ipagpaliban muna ang kolehiyo upang maging parte ng NBA G League Select Team. Magiging bahagi siya ng bagong koponan na hindi affilliated sa anumang koponan sa NBA at magiging kakampi ang Filipino-American sensation na si Jalen Green, Isaiah Todd at Daishen Nix.

Ayon sa mga source ng The Athletic, si Sotto ang “first international draft prospect to sign a deal in the NBA G League pro program.”

Sinabi ng developmental program president na si Shareef Abdur-Rahim na ang pagnanais ni Sotto na paghusayin pa ang laro ang dahilan kung bakit karapat-dapat siya sa liga.

BEST ROUTE

Mahigit isang taon na mula nang tumulak patungong Atlanta, Georgia ang 18-year old high school at Batang Gilas standout para hasaain ang talento sa The Skill Factory Prep School.

Nagbunga ang kanyang sakripisyo sa Amerika. Ngayon, naniniwala si Sotto na ang pagsali sa G League ang pinakamaliwanag na daan para sa kanya.

“Now I have to take the next big step towards my NBA dream. We have many options available but after much though, I believe this option is the best route for me to get closer and faster to that dream,” sabi ni Sotto sa kanyang Instagram post. “Here [in the G League], I will be playing with some of the very best and I will have even more resources and support.”

Target si Sotto ng top US NCAA colleges gaya ng Kentucky, Auburn, Georgia Tech at DePaul gayundin ng high-caliber European clubs ngunit pinili niyang pirmahan ang G League contract.

“In the last year I have learned so much. I worked on improving my basketball skills, building up my body and gaining the confidence to play against the best basketball players around the world,” dagdag ng former Ateneo Blue Eaglet.

“I am committed to work on developing my game on a much bigger stage. My wish is that you continue to support me and my new teammates and pray for us and hope for all of our success and health as a team.”

LABAN NG PINOY

Alam ni Sotto na ang kanyang paglalakbay patungo sa NBA ay pangarap din ng maraming Pilipino.

“I am so glad and grateful because it means a lot of you are following me on this journey,” sabi ni Sotto, anak ng dating Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) cager na si Ervin.

“I understand that I have a lot of responsibility [to] all my fellow countrymen who are dreaming of seeing a Filipino in the NBA.”

NATIONAL TEAM DUTY

Nagpahayag ang Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) ng suporta kay Sotto. Ngunit hindi tiyak si SBP president Al Panlilio kung makapagpapatuloy pa ang teenager sa national team duties lalo na sa 2023 Fiba World Cup na iho-host ng bansa.

“Well, we’re still assuming that he will be available for [the] Gilas [Pilipinas program],” sabi ni Panlilio. “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.”

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

MILLION PESO DEAL

Pero magkano naman ang kikitain ni Sotto? Higit na mas malaki kaysa regular G League players, PBA players at imports.

Base kay Evan Daniels ng 247 Sports, maibubulsa ni Sotto ang $200,000 (P10 million) sa loob ng five-month program. Mas mababa ito kumpara sa $500,000 (P25 million) per season offer sa US top high school recruit na si Green.

Ang mga manlalaro sa developmental league ay may average na $35,000 (P1.75 million) salary kada season.

Binabayaran ang mga PBA imports ng $30,000 hanggang $40,000 (P1.5-P2 million) per month habang ang local players na may maximum-deal ay may monthly salary na P420,000 or mahigit P5 million kada taon.

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