Kai Sotto is currently one of the brightest homegrown Filipino prospects playing abroad.
Coming off a quick stint with the pioneering G League Ignite, the 18-year-old followed it up by signing with NBL-Australia’s Adelaide 36ers.
He is just one of many Filipinos who have opted to play abroad.
Fellow cagers like Thirdy Ravena, Jack Animam, and Ken Tuffin have been playing overseas over the past year. Ravena is still signed with B.League’s San-En NeoPhoenix; Animam just finished a campaign with Taiwan’s Shih Hsin University Tigers; while Tuffin played for NZ-NBL’s Taranaki Mountainairs last season before signing up with the Wellington Saints.
In other sports, Jaja Santiago and Bryan Bagunas have been playing for Saitama Ageo Medics and Oita Miyoshi Weisse Adler, respectively. Meanwhile, Paulo Macasaet is set to join Czech team Blesk Jablonec.
Then there’s a handful of Filipino footballers playing in the Thai League, as well as other parts of the world.
But for Sotto’s new agent Jeff Bell, this is just the start for the next generation of Filipino athletes.
“I’ve been very impressed for many, many years with the Filipino players,” Bell said during a press conference organized by SMART. “I grew up playing basketball against Billy Ray Bates, who was one of the legends of Filipino basketball.
“And I’ve always been really impressed with the Filipino passion for basketball.”
Asian basketball leagues have begun looking at their neighbors for sources of talent.
Both the B.League and the Korean Basketball Association have opened their walls as the two leagues have allowed their teams to have an Asian Quota player.
For its part, the Australian NBL now has the Special Restricted Player, which allows prospects from the FIBA Asia region to sign with a team and be treated as a local.
This will open the doors for the next set of basketball players, headlined by the likes of Dwight Ramos, Justine Baltazar, and Juan Gomez de Liaño to play overseas one day.
“I can foresee definitely Filipino players in the future going many places around the world in the top leagues.
“But for me, Kai is the best,” quipped Bell about the 7-foot-3 enigma.