ALL eyes in the Philippines are on Kai Sotto as the 7-foot-3 center is set to embark on a new chapter in his young basketball career with the Adelaide 36ers in the National Basketball League (NBL) in Australia.
And rightfully so, with the 18-year-old carrying immense promise as he seeks to become the first homegrown Filipino player to be drafted in the NBA.
But it's no longer just the Filipinos who are following his every move, with the rest of Southeast Asia also keeping tab of his development knowing that he will be a problem in the international stage in the future.
The Philippines, however, cannot be complacent as an ever-changing global basketball landscape has helped other nations, particularly the neighboring countries in Southeast Asia, produce prodigies of their own.
That being said, SPIN.ph takes a look around the region to see who the next stars in Southeast Asia may be.
(Note: Special thanks to Fiba's TK Kulsomboon and Enzo Flojo for helping out in collating this list.)
Derrick Michael (Indonesia)
Rajko Toroman truly meant business the moment he took the job of leading Indonesia's national team. And he unearthed a gem in Xzavierro, declaring this early that the 6-foot-8 kid will be the future of Indonesia basketball.
The Serbian mentor wasted little time exposing the 18-year-old forward to tougher competitions, including him in his national team pool where he is mentored by naturalized center Lester Prosper. He also had a brief taste of action with the seniors team when he made his debut against Korea in the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers back in February 2020.
Xzavierro's immense potential soon intrigued scouts overseas, with Gonzaga making a run for his commitment before he signed up to join the NBA Global Academy in Australia.
Johnny Juzang (Vietnam)
Fans who watched March Madness months back would have certainly heard Juzang's name.
The curly-haired guard from UCLA is actually a Vietnamese-American and what a huge shot in the arm it would be for Vietnam if he indeed plays for its national team in the future.
Juzang, 20, turned heads in Indianapolis as he led the Bruins with 16.0 points on 35-percent shooting from deep, alongside 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 32.3 minutes in his sophomore year as they made it to as far as the Final Four of the 2021 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament, falling only to Gonzaga.
Still, the 6-foot-6 slasher showcased his caliber, earning a spot in this year's All-Tournament Team and is projected to be a second-rounder, at the very least, in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Johnny, however, isn't alone in Vietnam's radar with his older brother Christan, a 6-foot-2 guard from Harvard, also playing for the Saigon Heat in the Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA).
Hiran Boateng (Thailand)
Boateng has definitely positioned himself as one of the torchbearers for Thai basketball with his sick handles.
Standing at 5-foot-8, the Thai-Nigerian guard impressed in his first season as a pro for Mekong United BC in the Thailand Basketball League (TBL), averaging 8.1 points on 43-percent shooting, on top of 3.7 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.1 steals in 20.6 minutes.
The 19-year-old Boateng has also been a staple of Thailand's youth team, seeing action in the 2017 SEABA Under-16 Championship here in Manila and in the 2018 Fiba Under-18 Asian Championship in Bangkok.
But it's not just in the basketball court where Boateng is making his mark. He's also busy with his rap career as Swaggy B and has garnered considerable fame locally.
Lavin Raj (Singapore)
Speaking of fame, the burly Raj has earned his fair share of fans with his run with the Singapore national team, most notably in the 30th Southeast Asian Games here.
The 6-foot-7 center remains a project, but has posted solid numbers of 6.6 points on 40-percent shooting, alongside 4.2 rebounds in 15.4 minutes in the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup pre-qualifiers.
Raj, 20, last suited up for the Singapore Slingers in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) before the regional league was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
His conditioning may still be suspect, but don't be surprised to see Raj be a fixture for the Singapore team in the coming years.
Hendrick Xavi Yonga (Indonesia)
Here's another one of those Toroman projects in Indonesia.
Yonga is a promising 6-foot-1 winger who is one of the potential cornerstones for the Garuda moving forward.
The 18-year-old has already tasted top flight competition locally as he was included in the Indonesia Patriots roster in the Indonesian Basketball League (IBL), netting 7.1 points, 2.0 assists, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.1 steals in 19.6 minutes this past season.
Toroman surely hopes that these experiences will bear fruit in the long run as he pins his hopes on Xzavierro and Yonga.
Teoh Yi Kang (Malaysia)
Filipino fans should remember Teoh as that feisty point guard who went toe-to-toe with Gilas Pilipinas Youth bets Fortshky Padrigao and Mclaude Guadana in the 2017 SEABA Under-16 Championship here.
But the 5-foot-8 playmaker has maintained his grit elsewhere as he continued to represent Malaysia in youth competitions.
His latest stint was in the 2017 Fiba Under-16 Asian Championship in Foshan, where he garnered 3.7 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists in 27.7 minutes.
Teoh, though, is still 19 and is continuing to develop, playing for Farmco Touchup in the Malaysia Pro League (MPL) and his latest being with the Westports Malaysia Dragons in the 2019 MABA International Invitation.
Pongsakorn Jaimsawad (Thailand)
Thailand hasn't had much success in unearthing taller talents, but it certainly has keepers like in the case of Jaimsawad.
The 5-foot-11 guard, who was already playing as a professional at the age of 17 and is born to local Thai basketball legends, has been exposed to elite peers.
Last season, Jaimsawad teamed up with national team mainstays Chitchai Ananti, Teerawat Chanthachon, and Narathip Boonserm as he saw action for the Ban Bueng Devil Rays in TBL.
He did make the most of those learnings as he led Thailand in the 2018 Fiba Under-18 Asian Championship, posting 12.7 points on 31-percent shooting from threes, 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 22.7 minutes.