Timeline: Kai Sotto’s NBA Draft journey

Published June 16, 2022, 11:00 PMJon Carlos Rodriguez
Jon Carlos Rodriguez

Reviewing every major event in Kai Sotto’s pursuit of his NBA dream.

Photo from Sacramento Kings/Twitter

With the 2022 NBA Draft just a week away, now is the time to track the development of draft aspirant Kai Sotto’s NBA dreams–from speaking it into the universe to working out with NBA teams.

March 25, 2019: The goal

More than three years ago, Kai Sotto made the big announcement. After winning MVP at the high school level, Sotto flew to the US to train in pursuit of his ultimate goal: to play in the NBA. Sotto, then 17 years old,  posted a message for his fans on Instagram.

November 9, 2019: Sharpening the skills 

Months of training in the US pushed Sotto to test his newly-sharpened moves on the court. He announced that he joined The Skill Factory, an Atlanta-based preparatory basketball program. Highlights from The Skill Factory scrimmages showed that Sotto wasn’t messing around.

February 15, 2020: NBA takes notice

Sotto continued his grind in the US, and when the 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend rolled around, he was selected to join the Basketball Without Borders Global Camp in Chicago. Former Basketball Without Borders campers who are playing in the NBA include Joel Embiid, Pascal Siakam, Deandre Ayton, Rui Hachimura, and Jamal Murray.

Sotto became the first full-blooded Filipino to join the camp.

May 13, 2020: Going the G League route 

A few months later, it was announced that Sotto would forego playing in the NCAA and instead sign with the NBA G League. This move made Sotto the first international prospect to sign a pro program deal with the G League.

April 21, 2021: Next step 

Making one big move after another on and off the court, Sotto surprised fans when he announced that he would be playing in Australia’s premier pro league. Sotto signed with the Adelaide 36ers, again making history as the first homegrown Filipino to play in Australia’s NBL.

LaMelo Ball, the third overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft, took the NBL route before making the jump to the NBA.

May 13, 2021: JC Assist

With Sotto playing in the NBL, his dream of playing in the NBA gets traction. Jordan Clarkson, the first NBA player of Filipino heritage since Raymond Townsend, told ESPN some encouraging words for Sotto: 

“I just want to tell him to go out there. Work hard, and don’t put any limits on yourself. And just put in the time and keep grinding, the NBA is gonna be there.”

July 1, 2021: Balling with Boban

Sotto’s training and conditioning mostly involved bulking up to prepare him for the war inside the NBA paint. The closest he ever got to an NBA big-man matchup was a meeting with Dallas Mavericks’ reserve center Boban Marjanovic. 

Marjanovic led Serbia with 25 points to a win versus Sotto and the Philippine national team at the 2021 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in Belgrade. Sotto showed up to battle with 10 points, five rebounds, and two blocks.

April 28, 2022: Go time

After a productive rookie season with the Adelaide 36ers–and after three years since he started working on the ultimate goal–Sotto announced that he had declared for the 2022 NBA Draft.

May 27, 2022: Team workouts

A month away from the draft, Sotto went on a roadshow to share his talents with a couple of NBA teams. His agent, Joel Bell, said in an interview with NBA Philippines that a team had committed to draft Sotto:

“We have so many teams who want to bring him in for individual workouts and we actually have a commitment from at least one team that said if he stays in the draft, they’ll draft him.”

June 15: All in 

The deadline to withdraw from the draft was on June 14. By June 15, Sotto’s camp stood firm: the 7-foot-3 hooper from the Philippines would remain in the 2022 NBA Draft.

June 16: Meeting Jimmy Alapag and the Sacramento Kings 

A week left before the 2022 NBA Draft, the grind continues for Sotto. Along with other prospects, he worked out with the Sacramento Kings and met with Filipino basketball legend Jimmy Alapag, now an assistant coach for the Kings’ G League affiliate Stockton Kings.