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MANILA, Philippines – It may have taken some time for Kai Sotto to get his first minutes in the NBA Summer League, but the Filipino hopeful certainly did not disappoint in his highly anticipated debut in an Orlando Magic uniform.
After being left out of Orlando Summer League head coach Dylan Murphy’s rotation in the Magic’s first three outings, Sotto made the most of his long-sought playing time against the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday, July 14, Manila time, posting a well-rounded stat line of 6 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, and 3 blocks in only 13 minutes.
Rather than trying to impress the fans, coaches, and scouts with scoring, Sotto’s main priority is to make a mark on the defensive end as he is the tallest player on Orlando’s roster at 7-foot-3.
“I didn’t really play a lot, but I feel like I was just emphasizing on myself, just the inside presence, especially defensively. Obviously I am one of the tallest players out there, maybe the tallest, so I got to help my team protect the paint when I’m in there,” said Sotto.
“Offensively, it will come to me. I’m a good teammate, I’m really a willing passer for a big guy. I’m just going to let the game come to me offensively, but defensively, that’s where I’m doing my work,” added Sotto.
Coming off a two-year stint with the Adelaide 36ers in the National Basketball League in Australia and a three-month duty with the Hiroshima Dragonflies in the Japan B. League, Sotto said the level of play in the Summer League is very competitive as players are essentially battling for roster spots in the upcoming 2023-2024 NBA regular season.
Like many of the players suiting up in the Summer League, Sotto, who went unselected in the 2022 NBA Draft, is hoping to at least earn a two-way contract with an NBA team as most of the 15-man rosters of the 30 squads are already filled up.
NBA teams can have up to two players on two-way contracts who are eligible to play up to 50 regular season games with their respective teams.
“I think the game of the Summer League is just more fast-paced. Everybody’s trying to prove that they can play on an NBA game, an NBA environment,” said Sotto.
“It’s pretty fast-paced, everybody’s pretty skilled, everybody’s hungry to show that they’re worthy of a roster spot so it’s competitive.”
Despite the lack of opportunity, Sotto is just thankful for the whole Summer League experience and expressed his gratitude to his basketball-loving Filipino fans who inspire him to work harder each day.
“First of all, I’m very happy to be here. It’s a blessing each and every day to be out here and experiencing all of this,” said Sotto.
“I’m just happy to be supported by a lot of people, that’s one of the things I think about every day when I wake up. I always got something to look forward to, to push myself, and hopefully I make them proud.” – Rappler.com