IT'S hard for Kai Zachary Sotto not to stand out wherever he goes.
At 6-foot-9 and only 13 years old, it's easy to understand why.
Pictures of the teenager immediately went viral on social media following an appearance in an Alaska Jr. NBA camp over the weekend, catching the imagination of basketball fans who haven't seen an aspiring player this tall for his age.
Intrigued, SPIN.ph set out to get hold of the prodigy through his father Ervin Sotto, a former PBA first-round pick and seven-year veteran who is now playing for Byaheng SCTEX in the PCBL Chairman's Cup.
What we learned made us more interested: the kid has been playing with a ball since he was two, rarely plays computer games, doesn't have a Facebook account, and really loves playing basketball.
It's also anybody's guess how tall he can grow, but chances are good he can easily shoot past seven feet considering he grew, according to his dad's estimate, by five inches over the past year.
"Malakas kasi kumain at madalas natutulog pag hindi naglalaro," chuckled his dad.
As tall as he is, Kai is also aiming high, saying he dreams of making it to the NBA.
"Gusto ko po kasi marating ang NBA. 'Yun po ang dream ko, yun ang ultimate league para sa akin," said Sotto. "Sabi nga po ng daddy ko, kung gusto ko marating pangarap ko magsikap ako. Kaya naman po talagang lahat ginagawa ko."
Sotto said his father urged him to watch NBA games more than those in any other league in the world.
"Mas gusto ko po kasi na magaya o masundan yung players ng NBA kasi 'yun na ang creme dela creme," he said, counting Kevin Garnett and New York Knicks rookie Kristap Porzingis as his idols.
Among Filipino players, he looks up to his Ninong Ranidel de Ocampo.
Ervin and his wife Pamela have been very supportive of their son's dream, but the dad revealed it didn't take much prodding for Kai to embrace basketball.
"Hindi ko tinuturuan talaga 'yan. Siya lang, sariling sikap niya. Two years old pa lang kasi yan, humahawak na ng bola yan," said the former Purefoods banger.
"Saka kaya mas hasa ang laro niyan, mga eight years old pa lang 'yan, babangon lagi ng maaga yan tapos makikipaglaro na ng basketball agad sa mga matatandang players sa amin sa Manuela (Las Pinas). Kaya matigas yang bata sa laro."
Ervin is no doubt pleased with the progress of his son, who is now the main man of the St. Francis of Assisi high school team.
Kai's body is proportional and his moves are coordinated.
"May decent shooting yan, saka una kong dinevelop dyan yung dribble nya, kasi it's a must kahit big man ka, kailangan mo ng dribble para mas maka-atake at operate ka sa loob at labas," he said.
"Kaliwa't kanan na rin tumira yan, may layup rin at semi hook."
Ervin said the PBA is also an target for Kai, but said the ultimate dream is to become the first homegrown Filipino player to make it to the NBA.
"Para sa akin kasi, mangangarap ka na rin lang, mangangarap ka pa ba ng maliit? Syempre, pag nangarap ka, yung malaki na. Saka bata pa naman si Kai, malaki pa ang panahon niya para madevelop," said Sotto.
"Yung PBA naman kasi andyan lang yan eh. Mainam na rin siguro na ganitong edad pa lang, NBA na talaga ang target niya. Thirteen years old pa lang yan pero 6-9 na, so tingin ko with proper handling and development, I hope, God permiting, mararating niya pangarap niya," he said.
To further hasten the development of Kai, Sotto said he intends to send his son to the US or Europe soon for further training and exposure, although he admitted they have no sponsors yet.
"Dun ko talaga siya gustong dalhin, kaya sana maaga ko siyang maipadala dun. Dahil andun ang mas mataas na competition eh. Dun talaga siya mahahasa," said the elder Sotto, who is now working as customer service representative at NLEX, where he is also a company player.
"Kaso sa ngayon, dito muna siya. Hopefully, one day makaipon rin para maipadala ko siya ulit doon."