MANILA, Philippines – Since declaring for the 2022 NBA draft, Kai Sotto got the support of many sports personalities, including his former Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin.
His UAAP friends and foes alike also have the same united message of support as the 7-foot-3 wunderkind battles long odds to be selected in a life-changing event on June 23 (June 24, Manila time).
Now plying his craft in the seniors division with the UP Fighting Maroons, star rookie Carl Tamayo wishes nothing but the best for his UAAP juniors rival-turned-friend as he embarks on the most important journey yet of his blossoming career.
“Of course, I’m excited for Kai. I’m happy that our homegrown Filipino bet is really representing the country well,” he said in Filipino. “He’s always in my prayers, and I hope he achieves his dream, and hopefully, we always support him in his games once he is drafted. Let’s be happy for him, and support him.”
Back when he was with the dominant Nazareth-NU Bullpups, Tamayo was one of the few UAAP juniors stars who could actually go blow-for-blow with Sotto when he was still leading the Ateneo Blue Eaglets.
In Season 80 back in 2018, Ateneo’s teen titan dominated Tamayo’s Bullpups in the finals on the way to a championship, and a well-deserved Finals MVP award.
The following year, both young men continued their improvement drastically, and while Sotto got the Season MVP award, Tamayo in turn led NU’s revenge tour with a 15-1 season rampage, and with it came his own Finals MVP plum after helping sweep Ateneo in the finals rematch.
Aside from Tamayo, former star Eaglets Geo Chiu and Forthsky Padrigao – now key pieces for the future of the mighty Ateneo seniors team – also expressed nothing but happiness for their good friend now plying his craft with the big boys overseas.
“I’m really excited for him because we both know what Kai has gone through, and the difficulties he faced just so he can achieve his dreams,” said Padrigao in Filipino. “He knows we’re always here for him, and we’ll always be supporting. This is exciting because this might be the first NBA Draft we’ll all really be watching.”
“Just like what Forthsky said, we’re just like the rest. We’re all excited for him, for his career,” Chiu chimed in. “We went through what he went through, and we’ve been through a lot together, so we know him very well, and what things he can still do.”
“Continue praying for him, especially with his decision, and of course, no matter what happens, we’ll always have his back, supporting him,” continued Chiu, who was a key part of the Eaglets’ core for Season 81 – the only year he, Sotto, and Padrigao played together.
Sotto has always been known as an amiable person on and off the court, and it shows with how his former teammates and rivals speak about him years after their tournaments wrapped up.
Come June, there is really no guarantee that the Philippines will finally see its first homegrown player get picked in the world’s top basketball league. Regardless of the results, however, the country already has a bona fide likable star in its hands for the foreseeable future. – Rappler.com