With the support of an entire country behind him, Kai Sotto, at long last, made his NBA Summer League debut with the Orlando Magic.
The 7’3 center, who was born and raised in the Philippines, saw 13 minutes of action in Orlando’s 88-71 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. He finished with six points on three-of-seven field goal attempts, four rebounds, and three blocks.
Sotto displayed a soft touch and promising defensive instincts during his time on the floor – two crucial building blocks that could allow him to succeed in the NBA. However, it was quite evident that he still has a ways to go in terms of his overall quickness and strength, though these weaknesses could be addressed with the right training regimen.
Despite the flashes of brilliance, it is difficult to imagine Sotto making it to the Magic’s – or any NBA team for that matter – opening day roster this coming season. He still has a long way to go before even being considered a legitimate option for teams.
One advantage that Sotto has though is his Filipino connection which is something that Orlando clearly recognized. The former Ateneo High School standout drove the team’s social media metrics through the roof, with posts featuring Sotto gaining more engagement versus those of reigning NBA Rookie of the Year Paolo Banchero.
The ability of Sotto to draw this kind of attention to a franchise’s online accounts and actual basketball games makes him an attractive asset which should help him get even more looks like this in the coming years. This makes it likely that this stint with the Magic is not the last time that Sotto will be suiting up for an NBA team, regardless of how he performs on the basketball court.
With more of these chances likely to come his way, it will be up to Sotto to maximize them. The decisions that he makes in-between his NBA call-ups will be crucial–from the club team that he chooses to play for, to the agents and trainers that he associates himself with, and even his availability for Gilas Pilipinas. Unlike most players, he will get a second, third, and even fourth shot and it will ultimately be up to him to maximize this.
Regardless of what happens next with Sotto, the fact that he has made it this far as a homegrown Filipino basketball player is already a commendable feat. If he winds up unsuccessful in his bid to play in the NBA, he has nonetheless blazed a trail for more local talent to find their way to, at least, the cusp of the league.