It is off to foreign land for high school sensation Kai Sotto, Palawan! The towering 7 foot 2 center of the Ateneo Blue Eaglets is taking his first step to realize a dream to become the first ever homegrown Filipino athlete to ever play in the National Basketball Association (NBA).
The 16 year old Sotto will forego his UAAP career to try his luck in the United States where he will train over the summer against kids his age but definitely taller and more athletic than his local peers. It is crucial for Kai to do well this summer to build his upper body, leg power and motor skills to catch the eye of Division 1 college scouts. Bulking up and developing speed and agility is key as these are essential components to get a full college athletic scholarship in the US National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1.
Try outs for collegiate roster spots in the US NCAA would not be a walk in the park. He will battle blue chip high school players, comebacking veterans, and walk ins eager to compete for coveted scholarships and a chance to make it big playing professional ball after their varsity days.
Our kid may not be a one and done type of player but if he does crack a collegiate roster, he has the chance to play four years of solid college ball that can season him properly for the pros.
There are some pinoy ballers who tried their luck to make it to the NBA via the the G League. Japheth Aguilar, Bobby Ray Parks and even Kiefer Ravena tried but fell short but the common denominator after all their efforts to make it to the highest level of basketball in the world is that they became better players when they came back to the Philippines.
We hope and pray that Kai ultimately achieves this dream and be the face of Filipino basketball in the US. Regardless of the outcome and barring no major injuries, Team Pilipinas is guaranteed a steady 4 or 5 presence in the paint for years to come.
Start them young. Let them compete, play together, work together, strategize, follow rules, listen to the coach, train and develop discipline at an early age.
It’s summer time and what a good way to get your kids into sports after a gruelling school year. Giving the youth the healthy body – healthy mind concept will guarantee the similar drive and high level of passion to succeed in the work place and life in general. Getting kids into sports keep them busy, competitive and goal oriented. Moreso, it gives them the discipline to stay away from vices.
I recall my “younger” years in the 80s and 90s where teenagers really go out and compete pinoy street ball in various places. The “dayo – dayo” system, a term similar to a home and away set up, was quite common in the day where you visit neighbouring barangays (even cross city) just to compete and check how your talents fare against the best of street ballers in the area. It was fun and exciting!
So when your kids approach you and ask if they can join the neighbourhood “palaro”, show them full support. Get them sports jackets, warmers, or anything that will make them feel equipped to succeed. See their eyes light up when they see you cheer after hitting their first bucket, first serve, or first lap. It is guaranteed to make a great moment that your child will cherish, share and pass on to the next generation. Get your kids into sports, Palawan!
(The writer is a senior leader of the only Business Process Outsourcing Contact Center company in Puerto Princesa)