WHEN Yao Ming was taken first overall by the Houston Rockets in the 2002 NBA Draft, it was truly a shot in the arm for the basketball landscape in China, bringing spotlight to the sport in the world's most populous country.
And as Kai Sotto begins his trek to be the first homegrown Filipino player to make it in the big league, everyone is hoping for that same positive effect in the country.
Chooks-to-Go president Ronald Mascariñas certainly does.
"Maraming Pilipino ang nangangarap na maglaro sa NBA. Hindi iba si Kai and I can only wish that God will continue to bless Kai and his family in this very tough journey," he said.
Sotto made his earthshaking announcement last week, coalescing with Fil-Am high-flyer Jalen Green in the NBA G League select team together with other top high school recruits Isaiah Todd and Daishen Nix.
Mascariñas, whose company Chooks-to-Go has been one of the ardent supporters of Sotto in his NBA dream, said that this is a welcome news for the country especially in this time where the world is dealing with the global COVID-19 pandemic.
"In this time of a crisis, the news of him joining the G League was a development that brought light to our country," he said.
The amiable executive, who was one of the few who helped fund Sotto's trainings as early as 2017, couldn't help but be overjoyed with the strides the 7-foot-2 center has made in his game.
Yet he's far from surprised knowing how driven the young Sotto was in achieving his goals.
"When I first met with Kai and his family, I immediately thought that he was going to be special. And it's not because of his height," said Mascarinas.
"At such a young age, Kai already knew that he had a responsibility to his family and his country. It was his determination to carry the nation's dream of producing an NBA player that made us decide to support him."
Tough as the climb remains, Mascarinas has his full trust that Sotto can be successful in this foray, of course with the support of the whole country.
"Being a Filipino, he has a sense of responsibility to give back to his parents. For Kai, this is his way of making Ervin and Pamela proud," he said. "It is the road less taken but I know deep down that Kai had his family in mind when he made the decision to join the G League."
"May he continue to be an inspiration to not just Filipinos, but all dreamers and aspirants all over the world."