CHICAGO - Distance, they say, makes the love grow fonder.
But for Kai Sotto, proximity was a key factor in his decision to play out his childhood passion of making it to the NBA, choosing the G-League Select program over appetizing offers from Europe and blue blood Division 1 programs in the United States.
"Mas maganda kung nandoon na tayo sa mas malapit, mas competitive," (It's much nicer to choose a path that's closer and more competitive), Kai told me and a handpicked group of reporters and bloggers who were invited for the announcement via Zoom conference.
"It's better exposure," the 7-foot-2 Sotto explained further. "I will be coached by NBA-caliber coaches. I can't wait to train and compete."
And those coaches, waiting in the wings until this ongoing pandemic allows them to fly, can't probably wait to get their hands on Kai, either.
The first international player to be selected in this new pathway created by the NBA as a means to keep the skilled prospects from being drained overseas, Sotto is a diamond in the rough that, if mined carefully, can sparkle and bring riches for years to come.
What about his weight, that spindly 210 pounds that he flails around 94 feet of play?
Having wondered that, I asked the former Ateneo star if his strength and conditioning team is targeting a specific scale that he needs to reach in order to endure, let alone survive, the physical play in the professional ranks.
Thanks to his mom's magical cooking skills and wok of love, Kai revealed that he recently tipped the scales at 229 pounds. The ultimate goal, however, is 240 pounds.
Imagine that. Two-hundred forty is only 10 pounds less than LeBron and 47 more than Jordan Clarkson. And Kai still gets to keep the 7-foot-1 wingspan.
Please, don't you dare tell me life is fair.
GAINING 30 POUNDS OVERALL IS NOT EASY.
It's like dragging another thigh and lower leg. Hopefully. his handlers have already figured out how the science of nutrition and exercise will make sure that the extra muscles won't hamper Kai's mobility.
Scouts and pundits have all had their say about Kai but I was curious what he thinks of himself and what facet of his game he believes he needs to improve the most now that he is entering a critical phase in his career.
"Defense," he confessed, while admitting that his "strength and quickness" must improve as well.
He isn't worried about his offense, though.
No surprise there. The world knows Kai can punctuate an alley-oop, And he can hoop in any alley.
A shy teen prone to approach his celebrity with yawning indifference, I was extremely pleased to see Kai express some real emotion during that 29-minute call. His face was a cascading waterfall of joy and happiness that not even a Picasso can paint.
But there's more work to be done. Lot and lots of it.
Kai's amateur journey ended today. Which was no surprise. Given his talent, size and age, he really was like a car parking on an expired meter. He was bound to move on.
And so another adventure beckons. This one more purposeful, more noble in so many ways.
How many times must an entire nation pray before a dream comes true?
The answer ain't blowing in the wind, folks.
The answer lies in the broad shoulders of an 18-year old young man who is carrying his aspirations along with ours.
Good luck, Kai Sotto.
May the basketball gods be with you.