SPOTLIGHT Kai Sotto (left) is pushing to make it to the NBA—and an entire basketball-crazy country is watching. —FIBA.BASKETBALL

NBA G League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim is pretty much sold on the idea that Kai Sotto is on his way to making a milestone. And he knows enough about the country to figure that Sotto achieving that milestone would be huge.

“He’s on his way to being the first Filipino player drafted to the NBA,” the former NBA standout said in a videoconference call on Friday night, adding that he’s “not totally surprised” with the way Sotto’s decision to join a select G League team of prospects has become big news in the country.

“That’s a big deal and it’s part of his journey,” Abdur-Rahim said. “Obviously, being connected in the NBA, I know how big basketball is in the Philippines.”

Sotto has been in the United States for more than a year training at The Skills Academy in Atlanta to prepare for his NBA dream.

Instead of joining collegiate programs like Kentucky, Georgia Tech and Auburn, Sotto decided to jump to the NBA’s developmental league, where sources have said he will earn at least $200,000 for a season.

“Now, I have to take the next big step,” the 18-year-old, 7-foot-2 Sotto had earlier said. “We have many options available but after much thought, I believe this option is the best route for me to get closer and faster to that dream. Here [in the G League], I will be playing with some of the very best and I will have even more resources and support.”

His move followed that of Jalen Green, another top young prospect of Filipino-American descent. Green is expected to earn at least $500,000 for the season.

Moreover, Green and Sotto have more chances to earn additional income through endorsements than if they joined the US NCAA, which is only now considering letting players earn off their name, image and likeness.

The G League may not get that much following in the Philippines but Abdur-Rahim feels that will change soon.

“I don’t worry about how big the sport is [in the Philippines], it’s exciting for us in the G League standpoint,” Abdur-Rahim said. “Folks in the Philippines will follow Kai and Jalen, who have Filipino connections.”

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