By CARLO ANOLIN
Ateneo head coach Tab Baldwin is just as excited as most Filipino fans after hearing the news of Kai Sotto, a former Blue Eaglet standout, declaring for the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday, April 28.
“I can’t make any qualitative assessment of that. Kai and his people know much better what his standing is with the NBA teams and I’m sure they’ve been in touch with teams,” said Baldwin after the Blue Eagles’ 70-53 drubbing of Far Eastern University.
“I think I’m like all the rest of the Filipino who is just as excited for the opportunity that he might get drafted and then if he does get a real chance to make it into the roster and then it would be a dream come true for this basketball-crazy country,” added the three-time UAAP champion coach.
The 19-year-old Sotto, though not listed in the NBA’s initial list of draftees, hopes to become the first Filipino homegrown talent to make it into the most prestigious basketball league.
Baldwin, as the former head coach of Gilas Pilipinas, can attest to Sotto’s hard work even before the Las Pinas City native cager went to the United States and then to Australia’s National Basketball League (NBL).
The multi-titled tactician believes that the NBL has prepared Sotto for what’s to come as someone who “held his own” against other big men in the Australian league.
Sotto, who was named Fans’ Most Valuable Player, averaged 7.52 points and 4.48 rebounds in his first professional stint with the Adelaide 36ers and became an easy fan favorite with his highlight reels and explosive plays shown on social media.
Most importantly, Baldwin is hoping that his declaration to the NBA Draft would finally be the “right decision” for his young basketball career.
After all, once an Atenean, always an Atenean.
“I can’t make any assessment as to whether it is or not but we just wish him well and all of us Ateneans, we still believe he’s one of us and we’re very proud of what he has accomplished and hopeful that there will be a lot more of his stories to be told at the highest level,” added Baldwin.