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MANILA, Philippines – Kai Sotto continued to attract interest across the NBA ahead of the highly anticipated 2022 Draft on Thursday, June 23 (Friday, June 24, Manila time), as the Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers became the latest teams to grant the Pinoy prospect individual workouts.
On Tuesday, June 21 (Wednesday, June 22, Manila time), the 20-year-old center visited the Pacers facility to run drills and had exclusive interviews mostly centered around his time with the Australia National Basketball League (NBL).
“It really helped me a lot. Just the experience, hanging around with the guys, and learning from everybody, starting from my staff, to my teammates, to my coaches, and my opponents,” he said after a one-on-one workout.
“The whole year was a really fun experience. Really learned a lot and really helped me develop and improve as a player.”
The Pacers currently have the sixth, 31st, and 58th picks in this year’s draft, and are likely still looking to rejig their big man depth after All-Star Domantas Sabonis was traded to Sacramento for rising star guard Tyrese Haliburton.
“I’m a skilled seven-footer that can shoot from the outside,” Sotto said of his strengths. “I’m a pretty good passer at my height as well and I have a high basketball IQ. Pretty good shot-blocker.”
As for the Kings, they also gave the Gilas Pilipinas standout a more extensive workout last Wednesday, June 15, where he went through some full-court drills, and 1v1 and 2v2 matches.
Sotto at the time also got to meet PBA legend Jimmy Alapag, who is currently an assistant coach for Sacramento’s G League affiliate, the Stockton Kings.
Incidentally, Sotto and Sacramento were linked together in a Sports Illustrated mock draft, which said that the Kings may use their 49th pick on the 7-foot-3 wunderkind – his highest pre-draft position out of any major US publication to date.
“It’s a lot of attention, but I’m really thankful for all their support,” Sotto said of his growing following. “Those are (things) I don’t take for granted. If I make it to the NBA, I’ll be the first Filipino and my dream is to help others to get there, too.”
The Orlando Magic also previously gave Sotto an extended look, while Portland pandered to his massive Filipino fan base by editing him in a Blazers jersey, and asking how he looks with it in Filipino.
“The biggest goal for me is to make it to the NBA,” said Sotto. “But when I look at the bigger picture, I want to make it to the NBA to serve as an example and inspiration to the younger players, younger athletes back home in the Philippines. If they can say that if Kai can make it, so can I, that’s a dream come true.”
Projected as a late second-round pick at best, Sotto has still garnered legitimate attention from multiple NBA teams despite originally being a long shot to be selected.
With the draft withdrawal date now passed, it is now or never for the lanky big man, at least in terms of getting his name called onstage.
Harper, the son of basketball legend Ron Harper, had his workout last June 14. He is projected to be a second-round pick by various mock drafts.
Meanwhile, Martin had his draft workout last June 18. This is the second go-around for Martin after first declaring for the 2021 NBA Draft but withdrew to return to college. He won an NCAA championship with Kansas last April. – with a report from Paul Mata/Rappler.com
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