PLANS may not have panned out the way he wanted to, but Kai Sotto remains eternally grateful for the brief run he had with NBA G League Ignite.
The 7-foot-3 center admitted that he has learned a lot in his time with the select team despite being unable to join the squad in the NBA G League bubble in Orlando.
"My biggest takeaway is just to learn the environment of being a professional at a young age," he said on Wednesday in a roundtable discussion hosted by Smart.
"As expected, nung simula, di ko inexpect na ganung karami yung matututunan ko. Di lang sa loob ng basketball court, pero mas marami akong natutunan outside the court. Wala akong specfic answer, pero marami talaga akong natutunan. Ang pinakamalaki kong natutunan ay pagiging pro at a young age."
Sotto linked up with the groundbreaking program last year as its first international signing, where he rubbed elbows with top high school prospects led by Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga.
The young bloods were able to train for a number of months and got a huge veteran presence with the arrival of head coach Brian Shaw and 14-year NBA veteran Amir Johnson.
Unfortunately, Sotto's decision to honor his national commitment cut his run with Ignite short as he chose to head back to the Philippines in February, the same time when the team was entering the bubble.
The two parties eventually decided to mutually part ways in March, even before the Filipino prodigy could log a single second in the developmental league.
Sotto admitted that he had endured a tough time in the fallout of his decision.
Lucky for the 18-year-old, he's got a strong support group who diligently stayed by his side.
"After the G League Ignite, it's a little tough sa lahat ng nangyari," he said. "After noon, sobrang happy ako na yung group of people around me, tinulungan talaga ako na mag-stay sa path ko, mag-focus pa rin kasi kung ibang player yun, baka mag-give up na sila sa sobrang dami ng challenges at problema."
"Ako, di ko masyadong inisip yun. Nag-continue lang ako kung ano yung best para sa akin, mag-work at minotivate ko yung sarili ko. Yun ang bagay na mas nag-improve ako lalo ngayon dahil sa mga past na pinagdaanan ko."
It also gave him a chance to be closer to his family, with his mom Pamela taking a more vocal approach to how he's handling his career.
"Yung mom ko, mas naging vocal siya sa akin. Yung dad ko lagi ko namang maaasahan, pero yung mom ko ang nagbigay ng lakas para sa akin. Sabi niya, 'Kai, stay strong lang. Dumadating yan sa lahat ng tao, lalo na sa'yo sa path na pinili mo.' Walang maliit na bump eh. Talagang kung yung dream mo mataas, talagang malaki yung challenges na mae-encounter mo. Having my mom and dad, and inspiration ko rin yung dalawang nakababata kong kapatid, tinulungan nila ako to continue na magsipag pa lalo at continue yung path ko," he said.
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