EVER since Johnny Abarrientos’ aborted NBA stint in the mid-’90s, Pinoy basketball fans have always wondered, “Will we ever see a homegrown talent play in the NBA?”
Back then, at the height of his career, the media reported that the Charlotte Hornets were going to sign Abarrientos to a 10-day contract and, boy, were we all excited. But it didn’t push through. If it had, I think the spit-fire guard’s debut game would have been the most-watched TV event in the Philippines. Heck, if most Pinoy fans tuned in to Tony Harris’ debut with the Celtics because of the Hurricane’s PBA connection, they would have been glued to the TV set had there been a Pinoy in the world’s no. 1 hoops league.
Almost a decade later, similar talks were revived when Japeth Aguilar went to the US to try his luck in the NCAA. But that fizzled out also as he even couldn’t make a name for himself in the collegiate leagues.
Then, five years ago, one gangly kid by the name of Kai Sotto, who was already 6-foot-9 at 13, started turning heads and people started talking. Surely, this kid could make it to the league given the proper training.
What that proper training would be, everyone had an idea. Some said he should go the NCAA route, while some said he should take the European route. He took the US route and after playing for Ateneo high school, Sotto trained in the US before eventually joining the G-League.
I’m no basketball expert but I admit, after seeing some of his clips, I wonder whether having the whole hopes of a country on his shoulders is too much of a pressure. I mean, if you see the highlight reels of the NBA centers and you see Sotto’s clips, it’s obvious that, well, he seems a bit slow. But I thought the fact that the G-League signed him up points to his promise, so I got excited to see his debut. However, that was postponed when he opted to play for Gilas in a pocket tournament that has been canceled.
Although some said it was admirable for him to pick country over club, some said it wasn’t a wise move. After the Doha stint was canceled, Sotto’s handlers announced he would be returning to the G-League.
I hope the Pinoy will excel in the league and we get to see him fulfill his NBA dream. Just imagine, whichever team will sign him up will instantly get an army of 100 million fans.