Kai Sotto’s bid to become the NBA’s first homegrown Filipino will have to go down other paths after he was not named at a draft night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York on Thursday.
Thirty teams swept Sotto in the annual draft, in which Paolo Bankero and Chet Holmgren took first and second picks with the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder, and Jabari Smith Jr. was selected by the Houston Rockets in the round. out of the expected top three.
Throughout the drafting process, Sotto worked with the Magic, New York Knicks, Sacramento Kings, and Indiana Pacers.
All hope is not lost for Sotto, however, as he seeks an invitation to the 2022 NBA Summer League due to begin on July 7. This means he is eligible to play 50 of the team’s 82 games and has a chance to turn his contract into a regular deal.
A return to Adelaide is also under consideration as he has two more years (with a second team option) on the original three-year deal he signed with the 36ers last year.
Regardless of where he stands without a draft, this is sort of a workaround for Sotto. A path that began in the NBA youth program in 2015 and led him to the Australian National Basketball League last year.
The son of a former PBA veteran, Ervin began his basketball career with St. Francis of Assisi before excelling in the junior NBA and moving to Ateneo in 2016. There, he played three seasons in UAAP high school basketball and won the title, the Rookie of the Year award, the MVP Trophy, and the Finals MVP award.
Sotto later traveled to the United States to train at The Skills Factory, an Atlanta development program that paved the way. He joined the Basketball Without Borders Global Camp during NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago in February 2020 and then the G League Ignite development team in May of that year.
He left Ignite without playing a single game for the team and decided to turn pro by signing a three-year contract with the Adelaide in the NBL. He averaged 7.5 points on 49.6% shooting, 4.5 rebounds and 0.8 blocks in over 15 minutes in 24 games.
A strong season, averaging 11.6 points on 52.6% shooting, as well as 4.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks while averaging double figures in three of those competitions, helped support Sotto’s decision. join the 2022 NBA draft, where he was an automatic draftee by virtue of being a 19-year-old talent one year before he played high school basketball.
Bringing back the NBL seems like a likely option at some point, and it’s a choice that Adelaide’s leadership is willing to accept.
“The NBL is a great stage for him to continue to develop against grown men who are physically and competitively fit, with our full support and resources in Adelaide,” Theodore Chan, director of scouting for Adelaide, told ESPN. “We’re very excited to see him grow from last season and we have plans to further improve his game if he decides to return after the NBA draft.”