Did you know? 2019 NBTC Nationals has 'another Kai'

Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Mar 20, 2019 09:05 PM
Did you know? 2019 NBTC Nationals has 'another Kai'
Kai Ballungay took it to Kai Sotto in the Supreme 16 of the 2019 NBTC Nationals

This year, Kai Sotto completed his climb as the best high school player in all of the Philippines.

That is exactly why he was rightfully hailed as the top player in the 2019 Chooks-to-Go NBTC 24 and is looked at as the marquee talent in the 2019 NBTC League National Finals presented by SM.

In the Supreme 16 matchup between Sotto’s Ateneo de Manila High School and FilAm Sports USA on Wednesday at the MOA Arena, however, another Kai stole the show.

Filipino-American forward Kai Ballungay flanked Jalen Green as the star of the show that saw FilAm Sports whip the Blue Eaglets, 90-67.

Ballungay shined bright with 16 points, nine rebounds, and three steals all while going toe-to-toe with Sotto.

This, after the 17-year-old athletic big already averaged 21.5 points and 11.0 rebounds in their first two games.

For Ballungay, of course, he was a man on a mission. "First off, respect to him, it's an honor to play against a recognized player like him, but going into the game, I know I had to make a name for myself and show there's another Kai in town," he told reporters.

Without a doubt, he did just that and ultimately came away with the most important stat - the W. "It's all love. Respect to him. It was a great game," he said.

Alongside matching up with the towering Filipino teen, though, the 6-foot-7 Fil-Am said he's also nothing but determined to prove he belongs with more heralded teammates like Jalen Green and Jeron Arters. "Coming into the tournament, I really feel I have a chip on my shoulder knowing there are headliners like Jalen and Jeron. I'm just trying to make a name for myself coming here," he shared.

Apparently, Ballungay already committed to Cal State Stanislaus - a Division II school in the US NCAA.

If and when there's an opportunity to keep playing in the Philippines, however, he isn't closing any doors. "I think coming here, the possibility of playing is definitely an opportunity," he said.

According to the Fil-Am Sports forward, there are a handful of schools who have approached him, including Ateneo de Manila University and De La Salle University.

What's next for Ballungay, who traces his roots to Ilocos Norte, is yet to be determined, though.

For now, he only vows to keep helping USA in its quest for the national high school championship.

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Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo

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