ENTERING this year's NBA Draft was a prospect that truly appealed to Kai Sotto.
Despite his aborted run in the NBA G League with Team Ignite, the 7-foot-3 center was intrigued about the possibility of testing his luck this year in the hope of becoming the first homegrown Filipino drafted in the US league.
Unfortunately, those plans had to be shelved for the meantime as Sotto learned that he's not yet eligible to declare for the annual draft exercise.
After all, the kid just graduated high school at Miami School in Hamilton, Ohio.
NBA rules specifically state that players cannot be drafted straight out of high school.
But rather than sulk over the development, the 18-year-old looked at it in a positive light, saying, "A part of me, di ko masabing disappointed. Meron lang a part of me na ang dami kong inisip na magiging draft eligible ako for this year."
"Lagi kong iniisip yung laging sinasabi ni daddy [Ervin] na everything happens for a reason. Bibigay yan sa 'yo ni God dahil may mas maganda siyang ihahain para sa yo. At naniniwala ako doon," he said.
When one door closes, another one opens, he thought.
That opportunity led him to Australia as he agreed to a multi-year deal with the Adelaide 36ers in the National Basketball League (NBL) - a move Sotto sees as a "sign from God" saying he still needs to continue working on his game before taking the plunge.
"Sa tingin ko isang sign yun na di pa ako ready at kailangan ko pang maghanda pa lalo," he said. "Binigyan ako ng chance na magpagaling pa lalo at magpalakas. Pagdating ng time na magpapa-draft ako, confident na ako sa sarili ko na ready na ako para doon."
That's why he takes this upcoming trip Down Under as an opportunity for him to further grow his game, with a huge emphasis on bulking up.
"Siguro I just have to get stronger. Yun talaga yung No. 1 thing na nagpapahirap sa akin na makalaro sa higher level," he professed. "Kailangan ko pa mas maging malakas and to be more athletic. Once na makuha ko yung tamang lakas at bilis, mas magiging madali yung pakiramdam ko pag naglaro ako sa higher level."
If Sotto enters the 2022 NBA Draft, he will have to test his mettle against projected headliners led by Gonzaga commit Chet Holmgren, Duke's Paolo Banchero, and fellow aspirants Jaden Hardy and Patrick Baldwin Jr.