RETIRED big man Raul Dillo believes the decision of protégé Kai Sotto to train in the U.S. and eventually take his act to Europe is a step in the right direction.
With his imposing height and boundless talent, Dillo expects the 7-foot-2 Ateneo juniors standout to reach his full potential and hopefully, achieve his dream of becoming the first homegrown Filipino player to play in the NBA.
The two had a chance meeting during the recent Chooks To Go NBTC National Finals where Dillo, listed as 7-3 during his brief playing career, met Sotto for the very first time just before Sotto left for Atlanta to start his U.S. training.
Curious to see how tall this 17-year-old wunder kid was, Dillo travelled all the way to the Mall of Asia Arena from his home in Laguna.
“Gusto ko lang siyang makita in person kasi nasusubaybayan ko na siya. Gusto ko lang siyang makita kung gaano nga siya katangkad,” said Dillo.
He was amazed when he finally came face-to-face with the young Sotto.
“Matangkad nga talaga as in bata pa,” he said. “Lalaki pa siya. Kasi ako 7-3, siya 7-2 halos kaunti na lang ang difference.”
The two didn’t get to have a lengthy talk as Sotto had a game with the Blue Eagles then.
Dillo and Sotto just had a short conversation, which ended with the former Philippine Youth member wishing the son of one-time PBA player Ervin Sotto good luck in his playing career.
“Nagkamayan lang at kamustahan. Hindi naman kami gaano nakapag-usap kasi busy din siya,” said Dillo.
It was to his delight learning later that Sotto went on to pursue the next best thing for his young basketball career.
“Malaking bagay para sa career niya yun. May height at talent siya. Nandiyan yung bata pa siya. Kaya magandang maaga pa lang ma-train na siya,” said Dillo.
Unfortunately, Dillo was denied of the same opportunity when he was still starting out.
“Na-frustrate din ako dahil hindi ko nagamit yung height ko sa basketball,” recalled Dillo, who once played for University of the East and San Juan in the defunct Metropolitan Basketball Association (MBA).
“Pero siguro hindi talaga para sa akin ang basketball at ibang way ang ibinigay sa akin ng Panginoon.”
A career-threatening knee injury later cut short Dillo’s playing career.
A job at a water filtration company and occasional appearances in movies and television are the path Dillo has chosen instead, with the recent Metro Manila Filmfest entry ‘Aurora’ being the last movie he did.
Now a family man, Dillo has a 10-year-old daughter and a son, although he can’t say yet if both kids would eventually grow as tall as him.
But there are already some obvious signs.
“May difference na siya (daughter) sa ibang bata na ka-edaran niya,” noted Dillo.