Days after declaring for the 2022 NBA Draft, Kai Sotto went back home.
And the 19-year-old relished every single moment he spent with his family, his friends, and the kids that he inspired before he heads to the unknown.
Sotto, who flew back home last Wednesday, spent a day with dad Ervin, godfather Ranidel de Ocampo, and godbrother Deydee de Ocampo with kids in Tramo, Zapote to play in a light pickup game.
“Siyempre, cheering for Ateneo kasi dun ako galnig but also my friends na nasa UP,” said Sotto in jest when asked about who he was supporting.
Returning to the country is particularly important for the 7-foot-3 enigma.
For the past three years, Sotto only had a few chances to come back home.
He trained in the US for two years before spending a couple of weeks in the country last year to play for Gilas Pilipinas in the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers and the Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Sotto would spend the rest of the year in Australia playing for Adelaide in the National Basketball League.
Sotto would confide to Tiebreaker Times that he was both “excited and nervous” about what lies ahead.
Of course, throwing his name in the NBA Draft has its risks as he had to forego the second year of his three-year deal with the 36ers for it.
Will he get drafted? What happens if he doesn’t?
Despite the uncertainty of what lies ahead, Sotto is not afraid. Nervous, yes, but scared, definitely not.
After all, he knows that he is carrying a dream of a nation on his shoulders.
“Siyempre, thankful ako na maraming mga tao na sumusuporta sa akin at nararamdaman ko na nandiyan sila para sa akin sa journey ko,” he told The Game.
“Ako, talagang focused lang ako sa sarili ko dahil ang pangarap ko ay pangarap ng marami. Hindi ako puwedeng mawalan ng focus.”
Definitely, coming back home was an important endeavor for the young buck before moving forward.
Him watching his friends in the UAAP showed him what could have been. Him playing with young kids reminded him of who he inspiring. Him coming back home reminded him of who he is really playing for.