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    COLUMN: PH basketball on a high over Kai Sotto's move Down Under

    Apr 21, 2021
    PHOTO: remyworkouts Instagram
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    CHICAGO - The snowy, scratchy image on his career screen demanded a swift change.

    And so on a sleepy Wednesday morning of another pandemic-ravaged week in the Philippines, the nation opened its weary eyes to the news that the reset button has been pressed.

    Kai Sotto is headed to the Adelaide 36ers in the NBL.

    In the wake of his stunning G League exit last February, Kai's recent pivot to Australia is a change of pace and scenery unto a vibrant country of roughly 25 million people with the 13th largest economy in the world.

    Although two years late and one letter shy of the ultimate prize, the new destination is Kai's best move given how the absence of draft eligibility has temporarily dried up his NBA options like a shallow riverbed.

    But it still is a giant reason to celebrate. His - and ours by extension - NBA dream is alive and well.

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      The NBL needs no further introduction. It's a world-class league that provides a revolving door that leads directly to the NBA.

      Roy Ward, a sportswriter for The Age, a respected newspaper and news website based in Melbourne, Australia, was kind enough to educate me about Kai's new playground.

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      "In recent years, LaMelo Ball, RJ Hampton, Torrey Craig, Terrance Ferguson, Didi Louzada and others have played in the NBL and worked their way into the NBA" Ward told me.

      "Josh Giddey, who currently plays point guard for Adelaide, is seen as a first-round pick in this year's NBA draft," Ward added.

      Hit with injuries at ill-opportuned times this season, the 36ers currently cart a losing record. But they're a good squad that made it all the way to the grand finals a few seasons ago.

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        Prior to his granted request for release two months ago, former Ginebra import David Sloan, who played five years in the NBA, suited up for Adelaide.

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        Obviously, Kai gets to benefit from the NBL's world-class competition, not to mention acquiring top notch training and conditioning from the 36ers.

        For his fans, this means being able to see Kai in actual games and not just in carefully spliced highlight videos that tend to be deceptive and misleading while assessing his progress.

        AND THE PAY IS TERRIFIC.

        According to Ward, the minimum salary in the NBL per season is 60,000 Australian dollars or P2.24 million. Because Kai is a "special restricted player" he will command a bigger paycheck.

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        There are only a few special restricted players in the NBL and one of them, Ward revealed, is Japanese point guard Yudai Baba who is averaging 8.2 points, 2.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 22 games for Melbourne United.

        Before the pandemic disarranged the schedule, the typical NBL season starts in October and ends in February. Players are allowed to hoop elsewhere during the off-season.

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        Given his cherished commitment to play for Gilas, this freedom favors Kai's calendar.

        With super agent Aaron Goodwin no longer associated with Team Kai, Sotto will be guided by Joel Bell, a highly-respected NBA agent with a long client list.

        Twenty-five months after arriving in the U.S. to pursue a coveted golden ticket to the NBA, Kai Sotto takes an unexpected detour to a distant continent.

        It's the right turn, not the wrong one.

        Hopefully this time, the adults in the room will allow this 18-year old, 7-foot-3 star to purpose all his time and energy exclusively on basketball.

        Get to your game and burnish your name some more. The money will follow.

        Like the rest of our basketball-crazy brethren, I'm rooting for you, kid.

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        PHOTO: remyworkouts Instagram
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