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Sports

Kai: Goal is not draft day but NBA

Joaquin Henson - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Kai Sotto shrugged off the snub in the NBA draft last Thursday and should be inspired by a long list of undrafted players who turned out to be stars. “The draft is just an element of the journey, it’s not the journey,” said the 7-3 Sotto. “My goal isn’t the draft, my goal is the NBA. I know I’ve got to be better, to improve, to get stronger. What I care about is the legacy of being an NBA player.”

Sotto’s agent Joel Bell said Wesley Matthews was undrafted in 2009 but went on to play 13 seasons, is still active and his total NBA earnings are now over $110 million. Another undrafted player Duncan Robinson plays for Miami and is on a five-year $90 million contract. Toronto’s Fred VanVleet was also undrafted and he’s on a four-year $85 million deal. Other undrafted players were Ben Wallace, Bruce Bowen, Max Strus and Udonis Haslem.

Bell said there’s no doubt that Sotto will find success in basketball. “If I was an investor, I’d buy stock in Kai,” he said. Bell said the advantage of being undrafted is the player becomes an unrestricted free agent with the option of choosing which of the 30 NBA teams to play for with no strings attached.

The consensus among NBA scouts is Sotto is offensively set for the league but is a year removed from getting stronger to become a defensive force. At 20, Sotto has time in his hands to mature into a legitimate NBA center. What diminished his stock in the draft was the 10-day layoff that he took to rest a left low ankle sprain, losing the chance to try out for San Antonio, Phoenix, Golden State, Oklahoma City, Houston, Dallas and Toronto. Before the layoff, Sotto worked out with New York, Cleveland, Chicago and Atlanta. After the layoff, he attended the Sacramento, Los Angeles Clippers and Indiana camps.

At Indiana, he joined a three-point shooting drill designed for guards with the target of hitting 20 of 25. Although not a guard, Sotto volunteered to do the drill and made 18 of 25. “I could’ve done 20 of 25 but no big deal,” he said. It appears that Sotto is unaffected by the draft snub and doesn’t carry a stigma. The dream to enter the NBA remains alive as Sotto vows to stay focused on someday, making it come true.

KAI SOTTO

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