Kai Sotto glad to have pursued U.S. stint: ‘Dami kong natutunan’

Paul Mata
Kai Sotto glad to have pursued U.S. stint: ‘Dami kong natutunan’
Kai Sotto, who seeks to become the first Filipino-born player to reach the NBA, has come a long way since deciding to train in the United States

CHICAGO, USA – Chasing a dream thousands of miles away from home is not an easy decision, but Kai Sotto is reaping the rewards from that choice. 

The 7-foot-2 prodigy has seen his game vastly improve since flying to the United States to train in hopes of becoming the first Filipino-born player to reach the NBA.

“Sobrang laking bagay na lumipat nga kami dito at dito ako naglaro,” Sotto told Filipino reporters about his experience. “Parang ang bilis ng nangyari. Sobrang dami kong natutunan within 10 months lang.”

(It was such a big thing that we transferred here and I get to play here. Everything has happened fast. I’ve learned so much in just 10 months.)

“Hindi naging madali noong una. Pero thankful ako na kasama ko ‘yung family ko. Surrounded ako by great people, kaya naging madali na rin para sa akin.”

(It wasn’t easy at first. I’m just thankful that I have my family with me and that I’m also surrounded by great people, that’s why it has become easy for me.)

The 17-year-old has turned heads not just with his towering height but also with his developing skills, as proven by his inclusion in the Basketball Without Borders (BWB) Global Camp organized by the NBA and FIBA. 

BWB has produced NBA talents Pascal Siakam of the Toronto Raptors, DeAndre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns, RJ Barrett of the New York Knicks, and Jamal Murray of the Denver Nuggets, to name a few.

Sotto looks to follow in their footsteps. 

“Nandito talaga ‘yung mga best all over the world, except sa US. Pero kitang kita ang talent,” said Sotto, who currently plays for The Skill Factory based in Atlanta. 

(This is where all the best high school players from all over the world are, except in the US. But you can really see the talent.)

“Sobrang honored ako na makasama dito at makalaro ‘yung mga players dito,” he added of the 64-player selection from over 34 countries and regions. 

(I just feel honored to participate and play against some of the players here.)

One of the things that he picked up from his BWB stint was to enjoy the moment.

“Mawawala ‘yung pressure. Keep working lang kasi alam ko na kapag nagtrabaho ako, may magandang mangyayari niyan,” Sotto said. 

(The pressure will go away. I just have to keep on working because I know that there’s something good that will come out of it.)

He hopes that one day, another fellow Filipino player will able to do what he has accomplished. 

“Hindi ako nauna,” Sotto said, referring to other Filipinos who have played in the US. “Pero mauna ako para ipakita sa mga kapwa ko na mga Pilipino na kaya din nilang gawin kahit na hindi sila kasing tangkad ko.”

(I wasn’t the first. But I want to be the first to show to other Filipino players that they can make it here even if they’re not as tall as me.)

“Nakapaglaro na ako sa mga high school. Nakapaglaro na ako sa mga tournament. Nakita ko talaga na puwede makapaglaro ‘yung mga Pilipino dito.”

(I already played in high school. I got a chance to play in tournaments. I saw that Filipinos can play here.)

The grind continues for Sotto despite all of his impressive highlight videos that have spread on the internet and on social media. 

“I have to keep working hard lang. I have to get stronger. I have to get faster. Kapag nagawa ko na maging mas mabilis ako, naniniwala ako na mas gagaling ako defensively at mas madadalian ako offensively.”

(I just have to keep working hard always. I have to get stronger. I have to get faster. If I’m able to do all of those, I believe that I can be better defensively and offense will be easier for me.)

Sotto has also developed mental toughness.

“Dayo lang tayo. Hindi tayo agad rerespetuhin. Galing tayo sa ibang bansa. Parang ina-underestimate ka, kasi nga ‘yung iba hindi pa nila alam kung minsan ‘yung bansa mo.”

(We’re foreigners here. We won’t get respect easily. We’re from another country. They kind of underestimate me because some don’t even know what country I came from.) – Rappler.com

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