Recently, Bleacher Report released a short documentary about 7'2 Filipino basketball phenom Kai Sotto on YouTube.
The five-and-a-half minute video, which is part of the sports website's Life and Times series, discusses the 17-year-old big man's ultimate goal of becoming the first NBA player born in the hoops-crazy country.
The docu reveals a handful of new details about Kai's basketball journey in the US:
Kai studied Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan
Ever wonder where he got those silky moves around the basket? He credited his father, former PBA player Ervin Sotto, for introducing him to the legendary big men. He also gave a big hat tip to his father. Kai shared, "He (Ervin) just taught me almost everything that he knows about the game. And we always started with footwork. How to make easy shots."
Coaches, teammates only have good words for Kai
The Skill Factory (TSF) head coach Rob Johnson said to Bleacher Report, "It's just a fresh air to work with somebody whose goals are so in reach, but also knows and is willing to put the work in that it's going to take to get there.
Meanwhile, here's University of Missouri commit Jordan Willmore: "He's definitely a type of basketball player that'll pass. Like, he'll look for you. He's not a selfish player."
Kai the hunter became Kai the hunted in US
Not only is he aware of the target on his back, Kai also knows how to deal with everything that comes with being a highly touted foreign player. Johnson explained, "I think he realizes that now, and he kind of brings it to his opponents instead of waiting for it to come to him."
Family helped Kai overcome US culture shock
Before the YouTube highlights and college offers, he had to adjust to his new environment just like any other Filipino immigrant in America. Kai recalls, "I wasn't really focused on any college, but when I came here, I just got a little shocked that things are just happening so fast, and I just have to be ready for it."
US coaches focused on getting Kai NBA-ready
For TSF partner Jeremiah Boswell, the plan has always been preparing Kai for the pros. "Can he handle the NBA pace of the game, [the] physicality?" he asked rhetorically. "Can he use this link in a meaningful way? Does he stretch the floor consistently? Can he guard players? Can he guard in the post? Can he guard off switches?"
Kai's priority: strength and conditioning
P3 Applied Sports Science performance specialist Eddie Dimas expects Kai to be matched up against bigger and stronger guys, which is why building power is his first and foremost priority for his training. He added, "(We have to) make sure that he is able to match that intensity on the court, but also stay healthy, too, to be able to compete year-round."
Basketball Without Borders an eye-opener for Kai
The instructional camp had a crucial role in his player development other than a basketball showcase. Boswell said, "There's high-level kids that are his age, and he's able to see, 'I wasn't MVP. I wasn't on the first-team all-camp. What are the things I need to improve?' Now you're able to look at positive feedback from GMs, scouts."
Kai is on the right track
Perhaps the best part of the coaches' assessment was Boswell praising Kai for working hard and not letting the hype get to his head. "There's always a point where you have to start turning a corner, and potential has to become reality," he explained. "For him, he's starting to approach that phase."
Aside from NBA, Gilas also on the horizon for Kai
Kai ended with a declaration that would make any Pinoy hoops fan swoon: "My ultimate dream is to make it to the NBA. And I also want to represent the Philippines on international tournaments.
"I just want to show that the Philippines is part of the basketball world. I appreciate those people who follow me and my journey. Knowing that all my fellow Filipinos from my country are supporting me, I just use it as motivation, inspiration to work even harder to make them proud."
Watch the docu here: