The 2022 NBA Draft was quite an emotional one for Filipinos compared to recent years and given their passion for basketball, one couldn’t blame them.
The sadness and disappointment felt by many Filipinos seeing Kai Sotto being passed over by NBA teams in the 2022 NBA Draft were valid considering the circumstances surrounding Sotto and how he represents (fairly or unfairly) the hopes and dreams of the 110 million+ Filipinos all over the world.
Filipino-Americans Jordan Clarkson, Jalen Green, and Raymond Townsend are NBA players who can trace their roots to the Philippines, but Sotto was the latest Filipino who represented the brightest hope of having a homegrown talent finally making it onto the biggest stage. The former Ateneo Blue Eaglet’s combination of height and skills are something NBA teams are in constant search of and him turning 20 a little over a month ago meant that he could also grow into both his body and burgeoning reportoie.
Prior to the draft, there were rumblings of promises of Sotto being selected by unnamed teams coupled with some appearances in some mock drafts. Other teams went as far as bringing him up in their social media posts. But alas, these rumblings ended up being hearsay and well… mock drafts are more miss than hit.
Some of the social media posts after the 2022 NBA Draft gave off the feeling that the NBA dream is over for Sotto when in fact it’s not. The crab mentality that brings out the ugly side of Filipinos also reared its ugly head again, but then these keyboard warriors would never even get as close to where Sotto got to making the NBA. Sure, depending on who you talk to, the process got more complicated or the journey took a different path, but it’s not as if the door was shut for Sotto.
During the pre-draft workouts, the coaches running the drills likely gave pointers that Sotto and his camp hopefully took note of. While it may not matter to others, these words of advice could be what could get him a second look next year. Contrary to what other people may think, there’s no shame in going through the draft process once again.
Each basketball player has his own unique journey and this holds true even when players try to learn from the mistakes of others. Despite all the advice Sotto has received, nothing beats going through the experience itself and he will continue to pursue the NBA guided by expectations rather than assumptions. It’s also highly unlikely that he didn’t take anything home from the entire draft process and regardless of what it was, the two-time UAAP Juniors Mythical Five selection should use it as he continues his basketball journey.
Moreover, NBA teams would want to see more game experience from Sotto, especially since he averaged 15.3 minutes through 23 (out of 28 total) games with the NBL’s Adelaide 36ers. Another season of professional basketball will do wonders for the 20-year old, especially if he greatly improves on the 7.5 points (on 50/38/69 shooting splits) and 4.5 rebounds per game.
He got better towards the end of his rookie NBL season and Sotto would be better evaluated on the basis of that version rather than when he was feeling things out. Qualities like his feel for the game and whether he finishes around the rim better will complement any of the analytics used to describe him, providing a more holistic evaluation for him from here on out. After all, a greater body of work trumps potential in the long run.
It must be gnawing at the back of the minds of some that football nations like Brazil, Japan, and even Sweden have already managed to send players to the NBA and this is a feeling likely not lost on Sotto himself.
Having a Filipino, particularly one that can be considered homegrown, get selected in the NBA Draft remains an elusive dream, but making the NBA remains within reach for Kai Sotto. How Sotto proceeds from here on out will matter more than what outsiders have to say, since he can still control the outcome with a better showing wherever he goes next.