Gonzaga University has one of the most prestigious NCAA Division I basketball programs in the United States. The program is known for recruiting stars of various international youth teams into the school, particularly big men. Will Kai Sotto be the next?
The 7’1 Sotto has been the subject of a thread in a Gonzaga University basketball forum over the past month. This means the discussion was started right on the heels of his stellar performance at the FIBA Asia U-16 tournament wherein he led the Philippines in qualifying to the FIBA U-17 World Cup. The second generation player was selected as a member of the Mythical Team.
The original post, entitled “Tommy’s next potential recruit? Kai Sotto 7’0 15 year-old from the Philippines,” notes how Sotto is a growing phenomenon in the Philippines and how his impressive agility and athleticism were impressive for a player of his age and height. Several subsequent posters also expressed amazement at the now 16-year old’s coordination and skills, even noting similarities between Sotto and current NBA players Zach Collins and Kristaps Porzingis.
The Tommy being pertained to is the Bulldogs’ assistant coach and international scout, Tommy Lloyd. Lloyd has been with the Bulldogs program for 20 years, and has had a major role in Gonzaga, producing 13 NBA draft picks since 2002. Eight out of these 13 players are big men. Some notable international Gonzaga alums who made it to the NBA are Domantas Sabonis (Lithuania) of the Indiana Pacers, Kelly Olynyk (Canada) of the Miami Heat, and former Los Angeles Laker Ronnie Turiaf (France).
A message in the thread stated that Lloyd surely knows about Sotto already. The message then proceeded to start a conversation wondering about the technicalities of the NCAA – notorious for their strict guidelines on recruitment – regarding a college program bringing in a foreigner to play high school in the USA with the intent of eventually recruiting the student to play for the said program.
As some people on the forum noted, many collegiate scouts from America will surely be keeping an eye on Sotto in the FIBA U-17 World Cup this coming July. In the competition, Sotto will be facing the best international prospects in the world, many of whom are potential US NCAA recruits as well. The fact that the Philippines is grouped with known international basketball powerhouses like Argentina, Croatia, and France only adds more intrigue to Sotto’s situation.
Kai Sotto has been mum about any plans he has about eventually studying and playing outside the Philippines. He’s been adamant that his dad is the only one who knows about any offers or discussions about playing abroad, and that he is simply focused on playing basketball and improving his game. No matter how true this is, it is hard for basketball fans in the Philippines to ignore the topic given Sotto’s immense potential. And even if we’ve already been asking about whether Kai Sotto should stay here in the Philippines or pursue his basketball career abroad over the last two years, at 16 years old and still rapidly developing, this is only the beginning of the conversation.