Kai Sotto’s status with Ignite was sealed as early as the first day of the 2021 G League Season.
Though Sotto’s no. 11 jersey had been selling over at the G League store for US$59.99, the player who wore the same number in the games was Donta Hall.
Moreover, the 18-year-old Filipino, who skipped the G League Season for Gilas’ postponed campaign in the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers, had a DNP – Inactive status during Ignite’s first game against Santa Cruz last February 11 (Manila time).
Tuesday evening – exactly nine days since Sotto left the Philippines to return to the States – G League finally dropped the hammer.
KAI SOTTO UPDATE
NEW YORK, Feb 23, 2021 – NBA G League Ignite and international prospect Kai Sotto of the Philippines today announced the mutual decision that Sotto will not re-join Ignite. With the team’s permission, Sotto left Ignite in January to train with the Philippines National Team at the FIBA Asia Cup Qualifying Tournament in Qatar before that event was cancelled.
“Kai and the team both understood the challenges for him to rejoin Ignite given the current international travel constraints, quarantine times and health and safety protocols,” said NBA G League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim. “Kai will always be part of the extended Ignite family and we wish him continued success as he pursues his NBA dreams.”
The statement of the minor league was the definitive answer everyone was waiting for. But with that end, a myriad of questions came up.
The most common was:
What’s next for Kai Sotto?
Can Kai Sotto be a student-athlete again?
The answer is no.
When Sotto signed with Ignite last May 14, he essentially turned pro.
Gone are the interests from Division I schools Auburn, Georgia Tech, Kentucky, Nebraska, USC, and DePaul.
Can he go back to his roots and play for Ateneo in the UAAP then?
According to numerous UAAP league officials, they will also see and treat Sotto as a pro player, meaning he is no longer eligible to play in collegiate leagues here.
But by being a pro, the possibilities are endless for the 18-year-old.
What are the possibilities?
Leaving the G League does not mean that the NBA dream is over for Sotto. Though the probability is lower, it does not mean that it is impossible.
It will just take a little bit longer.
Sotto’s biggest takeaway from the G League is that he is now a professional basketball player. This means that he can now play in pro leagues all over the world.
Well, except the PBA, but more on that later.
NBL-Australia, European leagues, or even Japan’s B.League can be the next destinations for Sotto either as an import or a draftee.
The problem with those three leagues, though, is that their seasons have already begun or are about to end. Usually, pro basketball leagues that only have one tournament begin either during the fourth quarter of a calendar year or, in the case of NBL-Australia, in January.
Another stint with the G League is also possible, but the league won’t begin its 2021-22 season until later this year.
So what can Sotto do during that lull time?
Is Gilas still open for Kai Sotto?
As he awaits the opening of pro leagues worldwide, Sotto can come home and play for Gilas Pilipinas.
“He is always welcome to join our Gilas Pilipinas,” said Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas Special Assistant to the President Ryan Gregorio.
Unlike last year, Gilas has a lot on their slate this year.
FIBA will announce the date for the Clark window of the 2021 Asia Cup Qualifiers in a few days.
Besides this, Sotto can also join Gilas in their campaign in the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup, which begins in April.
This makes sense since Sotto now needs game experience, not just training sessions.
Being a full-time PBA player is out of the question, however, since a draft applicant must be at least 21 years old.
Yes, despite being a pro everywhere else in the world, Sotto still has to avail of a special guest license in order to play for Gilas in the PBA this year.