Germany? Spain? Australia? US? Kai Sotto's next destination will be a family decision
Norman Lee Benjamin Riego on Mar 05, 2019 04:47 PM
Kai Sotto has long been putting up monster numbers, but at home, he has been a darling to his family for an even longer time (FILE Photo).
In three years playing in the UAAP juniors basketball tournament, Kai Sotto made an immediate impact as Rookie of the Year, won a championship, claimed an MVP award and got selected into the Mythical Team
At just 16-years old, he is now the undisputed best player in all of high school – as his second straight selection as number one in the annual NBTC 24 would attest.
Safe to say, he has done all there is to do in the Philippines.
And so, the question is now what’s next for the towering teen said to be the future of Philippine basketball.
Only, the answer to that question isn’t coming anytime soon. “Yung dad ko nakakaalam dyan. Siya nasasabi sa akin ng lahat tapos oo lang ako o hindi,” the Ateneo de Manila High School standout – quite literally – said when pressed about his future.
SOON TO RISE… WHERE?
For his part, father Ervin only obliged in giving more details – even though there still isn’t a categorical answer to the question. “Yung mga offers, mostly sa Spain or Germany. US, meron talaga dati pa pati Australia,” he said [Editor's Note: A recent Sportando article revealed four clubs which made offers to Kai Sotto].
However, these details have already been known as early as last year when news broke that Kai will be playing out his third and last season for the Blue Eaglets and afterward, is most likely to go overseas.
Safe to say, there remains no new developments about this question – the answer is yet to be determined.
What has been determined is that wherever the 7-foot-2 Filipino wunderkind will end up, so will the Sotto family.
This is exactly what they did when he transferred from St. Francis of Assisi in Las Piñas to Ateneo in Quezon City.
Still, this decision, this time around, was another tough task in itself. “Sa akin, mas okay akong mag-isa siya kasi mas mabilis maging independent kaya mas mabilis mag-iimprove, pero kung tanungin niyo mommy niya, iba naman reason niya. Siyempre, anak niya, gusto niya laging kasama,” Ervin shared.
He then continued, “Talagang matinding usapan yung nangyari so pag nagdi-deal kami with clubs sa mga opportunity na dumarating, inuuna namin yung pamilya namin. Buti naman, willing sila.”
As it turns out, it was Kai himself who put his foot down and decided all of them will stay together. “Sabi niya sa amin, gusto ko, habang kaya ko kayong kasama, kasama ko kayo. Later on, magkakaroon ako ng pamilya and maghihiwalay rin tayo, pero ngayon, gusto ko magkakasama pa rin tayo,” his father recalled.
He then continued, “Request ni Kai yun so whole family kami. Gusto niya, kung aalis o mag-stay, kasama niya kami.”
THE FAMILY THAT PLAYS TOGETHER, STAYS TOGETHER
And that’s just as well because as promising as he is, the UAAP 81 Juniors MVP is still two years under the legal age and, of course, needs all the guidance he can get.
Who better to give that than the people who know him best, the people who have known him for each and every moment he has lived.
After all, it was with that guidance from father Ervin and mother Pam that Kai lived up to both halves of being a student-athlete.
As much as he was a dominant force on-court, he was also a diligent worker inside the classroom – and in the highly esteemed halls of Ateneo, no less.
“Alam mo naman sa Ateneo, talagang student-athlete dun so nasa klase siya ng 7:00 AM to 4:00 PM and then practice from 4:30 PM to 8:30 PM,” Ervin said. “Yung practice nila, two hours lang, pero nag-eextra siya nang sarili niya. Pagdating ng bahay, aral muna nang konti tapos pahinga na kasi may pasok ulit kinabukasan.”
Yes, make no mistake about it, the Batang Gilas pillar brings the same sort of determination he has during games to his classes. “Masipag siya mag-aral kasi nga pag seryoso talaga siya, pag-iigihan niya, paghihirapan niya,” his father said.
That much was evident as right after the Finals Game 2 loss that ultimately dethroned Ateneo, Kai already had his sights set on a different kind of finals.
At the same time, the so-called “Philippine Unicorn” is also excellent in a different kind of X’s and O’s – you know, the X’s and O’s all of us put at the end of a letter at least once in our lives.
“Pag-uwi niya galing school, siyempre pagod, minsan, ‘di na siya nakakapasok ng kwarto namin,” Ervin said. “Pero pag kaya niya, sisingitan talaga niya ng oras. Pag okay pa siya, papasok siya ng kwarto namin tapos makikipaglaro sa mga kapatid niya.”
Indeed, Kai has already shown himself to be a stand up kuya – even bringing his youngest brother Tim to center court when he received his Finals MVP a year ago.
All of that only continues at home. As the Sotto patriarch put it, “Pag walang klase, tatawagin niya yung kapatid niya, pasa-pasa sila ng bola. Pagkatapos niya, inaakap niya, pinanggigigilan niya. Magkakalayo kasi agwat nila e so kuya talaga siya.”
HONOR THY FATHER AND MOTHER
That also goes for the parents of the country’s top high school player.
For Ervin, their bonding sessions now involve the help of Nintendo and Sony. “Pag ‘di siya kasama ng kapatid niya, nasa room lang siya, naglalaro ng Switch. Pag gusto niyang makipaglaro sa akin, dadalhin niya yung Switch sa akin, maglalaro kami,” he said.
He then continued, “O kaya bubuksan yung PS4, maglalaro kami ng (NBA) 2K. Ganun lang kami sa bahay.”
Kai’s all-out loving, however, is reserved for his mother. “Hindi siya malambing sa akin, pero sa mommy niya, oo. Kung anong sinasabi ng mommy niya, sinusunod niya,” the father said.
Yes, Kai is a mama’s boy – remember, it was Pam who was with him in the Jr. NBA back in 2016, the place and time where he was revealed for all of the Philippines to see.
THE NAME OF THE GAME
Whatever happens from here on out, the Sottos are proud of their eldest.
“Lahat naman siguro, magiging proud sa nararating ng bata kasi ‘di naman madali yun. Kung makikita mo naman yung bata na masaya, bakit ‘di ka magiging masaya para sa kanya,” Ervin said. “Kung tatanggalin mo ako as a father niya, na titignan ko siya as hindi anak, matutuwa talaga ako sa nangyayari sa kanya.”
Without a doubt, Kai has made his father and mother proud.
And if UAAP 81 was indeed the last we will be seeing of him in the Philippines – for now, at least – he can only say he left his all on the court. “Pagdating talaga ng season na yun, mindset ko every game is my last game. Simula pa lang naman nung naglalaro ako, tinuro na sa akin ng dad ko na isipin ko na wala nang bukas,” he said.
He then continued, “Kaya no regrets. Talagang alam ko namang binigay ko ang lahat ko and binigay ng teammates and coaches ko yung lahat nila.”
For now, though, with Ateneo’s finals week looming large, the pride of the Sottos is putting all basketball talk far from his mind. “Mag-aaral muna ako. Chill lang (yung mga nagtatanong what’s next) kasi darating din tayo sa point na yun,” he said.
He then continued, “This year yun, after nga ng pag-aaral ko sa Ateneo. Dun ako magde-decide at sasabihin sa inyo.”
In the end, what matters for Kai is that whatever score it is – whether it be inside the Filoil Flying V Centre or inside the classroom in Katipunan – the Sottos will be with him.
And they will have all the X’s and O’s he will ever need.
With a report from Danine Cruz.
Follow this writer on Twitter, @riegogogo.