One of the fastest ways for a non-American player to make it into the NBA is to play for a Spanish club—just take a look at Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis

By Klyde Manansala | Photo by Tristan Tamayo

Without a doubt, 16-year-old Kai Sotto has the potential to be the first full-blooded Filipino to step onto the NBA stage. But in order for that to happen, his talent needs to be harnessed. Playing for Real Madrid may be just what he needs.

Yesterday, a report from Quinito Henson stated that an NBA and FIBA certified agent has been urging Earvin, father of Sotto, to send the 7’1” giant to the Spanish premier division club for a five-year, $1 million contract.

His numbers alone are more than enough to draw international agents and scouts’ attentions. At the FIBA U16 Asia Cup in China in April, he averaged 16.8 points and 13.5 rebounds to lift the Philippines into fourth out of eight competing teams. At the FIBA U17 World Cup in Argentina held in July, Sotto averaged 16.4 points and 10.6 rebounds, and scored 47.2 percent from the field and 67.4 percent from the line. And last month at FIBA U18 Asia Cup in Thailand, Sotto continued his rampage, averaging 12.7 points and 8.7 rebounds.

Accepting a rare offer from one of the biggest clubs in the world should be a no-brainer. In fact, it is a win-win situation for the future of Philippine basketball. Before Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis emerged as first round NBA draft picks, both spent a couple of years playing for Spanish ball clubs.

At 13, Doncic found himself playing as a reserve for Real Madrid at the EuroLeague after answering the team’s call, the same scenario Sotto is facing today. Three years later, at just 16, Doncic was officially listed in the roster of Real Madrid, which plays for both EuroLeague and Liga ACB, making him the youngest player ever to debut in either league. And at this year’s NBA draft, Doncic was selected third overall at just 19.

The same goes for one of the most versatile centers in the NBA. Porzingis was only 15 when he played for Liga ACB’s Sevilla before winding up as the fourth overall pick by the New York Knicks in 2015.

“If he decides to bring his talents abroad, three years from now, we could expect to see him gear up for the NBA draft

The purpose of the offer is apparent. Sotto will without a doubt follow in the footsteps of some renowned NBA players today. Even if he does not make it to the big league—which is far from happening with a Spanish club guiding him—Philippine basketball will still benefit from the sensational Sotto in the future. If he decides to bring his talents abroad, three years from now, we could expect to see him gear up for the NBA draft.

Right now, Sotto has plenty of options. He could consider enrolling in an NCAA Division I school in the US or he could opt to stay with Ateneo until he moves to the senior division. But the clock is ticking and whatever path he decides to take will determine the trajectory of his growing career.