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    Wed, Nov 30

    IF Kai Sotto can't get drafted in the NBA, who can?

    That question ought to be in the minds of most Filipino basketball fans dealing with the disappointment of not hearing Sotto's name called during the 2022 NBA Rookie Draft on Friday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

    Since he grew to be 6-foot-9 at age 13, Sotto had represented the Philippines' best shot at putting its first homegrown player in the NBA to join Fil-foreigners Raymond Townsend, Jordan Clarkson, and Jalen Green.

    Kai Sotto at 13 years old.

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    Kai Sotto at 13 years old.

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    By age 20, Sotto has grown to become 7-foot-3 with enough training and experience overseas to be confident enough to be among the cream of the crop of the 2022 rookie class and be among the 58 names called come draft time.

    He wasn't.

    While most Philippine coaches aren't about to give up on Sotto making it eventually to the world's premier basketball pro league, they were asked to ponder on when another player from country can have a shot at it.

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    MORE ON KAI SOTTO
    MORE ON KAI SOTTO

      NLEX coach Yeng Guiao was pretty blunt about it.

      "I don't know ... I thought Kai was our best shot to get to the NBA," said the veteran coach, sounding disappointed. "If Kai can't make it, nobody in the present generation [of Filipino players] can."

      "Good question," said PBA and UAAP champion coach Eric Altamirano, believing that the Sotto draft snub wasn't an indictment of the youngster's lack of skills but more a testimony of the talent and depth in the pool, especially in Sotto's position.

      "It’s hard to say. There are many factors to make it happen. The talent in the draft is one. Also, like in the case of Kai, how many players like Kai were in the draft," added Altamirano, who now runs the Coach E basketball camps.

      Kai Sotto

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      Norman Black sounded more optimistic, saying, 'I'm not sure who our next prospect will be, but I'm sure someone will develop into a potential. With all the international exposure our young guys are getting, I'm sure we'll see one before we check out of the scene."

      Tommy Manotoc, a grand slam coach like Black, was more focused on the process than the talent of the Filipino prospect.

      "We have no chance until [the prospects] play collece NCAA basketball in the US," said the former Crispa and U-Tex coach. Sotto, it should be pointed out, turned his back on that path to play in the G League and later in Australia's NBL.

      [See Why Kai camp's not hot on Summer League, draft-and-stash paths]

      However, Guiao, Altamirano, and Black aren't about to give up on Kai Sotto's NBA dream.

      "The dream is not over," said Guiao. "Kai has a lot of room for improvement. He is very young and highly motivated. Hindi pa tapos ito."

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      Black echoed the same words: "I wouldn't give up on Kai just yet. He may not have been drafted but he's still young and he can still find other routes to reach his goal of making the NBA."

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      SEE ALSO

      The Meralco coach knows whereof he speaks. He himself went undrafted but after toiling in the old Continental Basketball Association (CBA) went on to play three games with the Detroit Pistons in the 1979 NBA season.

      Altamirano, for his part, said: "Looking on the bright side, Kai can still get on an NBA team as a free agent; maybe one or two years from now if he gets the much-needed exposure at this level. Playing in the NBL only for one season maybe was not enough to convince NBA teams that he is ready."

      On who the next Filipino player will get that shot, Manotoc was firm in his response.

      "A guard," Manotoc said.

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      As for PBA champion coach and current Gilas Pilipinas deputy Jong Uichico, it was more about the Filipino player checking all the boxes in terms of size, athleticism, and passion.

      "I think If we can find size with athleticism in the position that they will probably play in the NBA, that would be a good start," Uichico said.

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