When Kai Sotto made the leap to the G League early this week, he took many by surprise.
Some say that the 18-year-old should have gone to a Division I program, or headed to Europe for more experience. Doubters say that he is biting off more than he can chew.
But for his former Ateneo Blue Eaglets teammates, they always knew that this was Sotto’s destiny.
In Thursday’s session of Hoop Coaches International Webinar presented by Blackwater, Sotto’s teammates from the UAAP Season 79 champion squad — namely Dave Ildefonso, SJ Belangel, and Jason Credo — all weighed in on the Season 80 MVP’s decision.
Ildefonso, who is one of Sotto’s closest friends, knew that the 7-foot-2’s journey would lead him stateside.
“Well, ‘yung dream ko lang naman talaga for Kai is maging kasing galing niya ‘ko. ‘Yun ‘yung sinasabi ko sa kanya lagi, na tignan lang ako, paano ako maglaro, para ready na siya ‘pag nakapunta na siya ng NBA,” quipped Ildefonso.
“All kidding aside, ever since Grade Eleven kami and I saw him improve, I called it. Sabi ko, ‘Sobrang kaya niya talaga. He is our chance.’ I’ve been telling him that,” he continued.
“Ever since, I thought talaga na this is the route for him. This is just a small thing. The question is, can he dominate? Given his work ethic and his God-given talent, it is doable.”
On the other hand, the news came as a surprise for Credo.
Credo was confident that Sotto would make the G League one day. But he did not expect it to happen just a year after leaving the country, and a few months of training with Georgia-based team The Skills Factory.
“I message Kai about things I see on the internet about him. Siya ‘yung tinatanong ko to be able to be sure whatever I see,” disclosed Credo, noting that he could not believe what notable NBA writer Shams Charania broke Monday evening (Manila time).
“I was just shocked that in just about a year, he was already going to the G League. I didn’t think it would be that fast. I hope he will be able to cope with the system there. I’m just proud of him.”
Compared to joining a Division I school, Sotto will be under the tutelage of former NBA players and coaches. Besides this, he will also have a live contract that will be worth at least US$ 150,000.
That is why for Belangel, he believes that his pal also had his family in mind when he made that decision.
“For me naman, masaya kasi former teammate back then. Knowing ‘yung struggles niya growing up sa States at dito rin, happy ako for him. Lagi niya inaalala family niya at alam niya kailangan magtiyaga,” Belangel shared.
“It’s going to be a new process for Kai, new challenge, kaya we will see kung ano ‘yung kaya niyang gawin dun.”
At the end of the day, they will always be there for Kai through thick or thin.
“We will always be here, kami nila Jason at Dave, to support him all the way.”