Where should Kai go? A closer look at the European clubs interested in Sotto

Special Olympics athlete Matthew Millett of Team USA with the 3/4 court buzzer beater!

To achieve something that has never been done before, one has to be willing to do things that most people don’t do. Or in this case, one has to grab an opportunity of a lifetime that not a lot of players will ever come close to ever getting.

That’s exactly what the Philippines’ most promising basketball talent Kai Sotto has in store for him, as he and his family are reportedly mulling over multiple offers from established European ball clubs to play overseas.

The 16-year-old 7’2 center was as good as advertised and towered over his competition in the UAAP Season 81 Juniors Division, norming prolific numbers of 25.1 points. 13.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 2.6 blocks, en route to the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.

 

Kai Sotto

Aside from being blessed with physical tools, Sotto possesses seemingly unlimited potential, with pundits believing he has a legitimate shot of becoming the first ever full-blooded Filipino to reach the NBA.

ALSO READ: The path to the NBA: Crossroads for Kai Sotto

But if we learned anything from the past, playing internationally still does not guarantee a shot at the big leagues. After all, we’ve seen players as talented as Kiefer Ravena and Bobby Ray Parks Jr. and as dynamic as Kobe Paras failed to get over the hump after short-lived stints abroad. Still, a generational talent like Sotto should be given enough leeway to pursue opportunities that would help him reach his highest ceiling.

FOX Sports Philippines gives you a closer look at the five European clubs that are reportedly swooning over the promising Filipino beanpole.

Real Madrid Baloncesto

League(s): Liga ACB, Euroleague

Notable alumni:  Arvydas Sabonis, Dražen Petrović, Rudy Fernandez, Serge Ibaka, Nikola Mirotic, Luka Dončić.

Accolades: 34 Spanish League championships (including feats of seven in a row and 10 in a row) 27 Spanish Cup titles, 10 EuroLeague Championships, and four Saporta Cups. Madrid has also won a record five Intercontinental Cups, and three Triple Crowns.

Talks of Sotto being scouted by a highly successful international basketball program first emerged in September last year when Euroleague staple Real Madrid Baloncesto reportedly offered him a five-year, $1 million deal.

Known as the sister team of the most successful football club in history Real Madrid C.F, Sotto can’t go wrong choosing Real Madrid Baloncesto, especially with its reputation for producing NBA-ready prospects. The team currently employs former NBA players like Gustavo Ayon, Felipe Reyes, and Sergio Llull, while Sotto would also learn a thing or two from American Anthony Randolph—who possesses a similar rangy built with the youngster.

It is also worth noting that Sotto is roughly around the same age as current NBA Rookie of the Year frontrunner Luka Doncic when he first donned Real Madrid’s colors (Kai turns 17 in May, Luka joined the team when he was just 16).

FC Barcelona Lassa/Barça Lassa

League(s): Liga ACB, Euroleague

Notable alumni: Pau Gasol, Rony Seikaly, Marc Gasol, Anderson Varejão, Juan Carlos Navarro, Ricky Rubio, Tony Massenburg.

Accolades: Two-time European champions, one Intercontinental Cup, two Saporta Cups, two Korac Cups, 18 Spanish Championships. 25 Spanish Cups, six Spanish Supercups.

Real Madrid might have had their sights on Sotto first, but another Spanish team FC Barcelona is also worth considering for the towering teen. The Spanish basketball club honed the Gasol brothers to form, while also allowing playmaking wizard Ricky Rubio to gain more experience before he jumped ship to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2011.

Former Portland Trail Blazer Victor Claver currently banners the squad.

Saski Baskonia/Kirolbet Baskonia

League(s): Liga ACB, Euroleague

Notable alumni: Andres Nocioni, Luis Scola, Tiago Splitter, Mirza Teletovic, Pablo Prigioni, Jose Calderon

Accolades: Three-time ACB champions, six Spanish Cups, four Spanish Supercups, one FIBA European Cup

Baskonia’s brand might not carry the same weight as Real Madrid or FC Barcelona, but it boasts a proven basketball program that breeds hard-nosed athletes who are endeared by the coaches at the pro-level. Sotto would no doubt learn plenty of valuable lessons from the team’s current roster, particularly with distinguished playmaker and team captain Marcelo Huertas.

Alba Berlin

League(s): German League, EuroLeague, EuroCup

Notable Alumni: Uwe Blab, Miroslav Raduljica, Peyton Siva, Moritz Wagner

Accolades: Eight German Championships, nine German Cups, three German Champions Cups, one FIBA Korac Cup

If for some reason Sotto and his family would prefer to be outside the bright lights of Spain, he would certainly be welcomed with open arms by German professional club Alba Berlin.

The team plays its home games in the state-of-the-art Mercedes-Benz Arena Berlin and is  also one of the most popular basketball clubs in Europe with an estimated crowd of 10,000 fans per game in a season.

Although their alumni might not be as star studded as the other teams on this list, the squad actually beat reigning NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in an exhibition game in 2014.

Club Estudiantes/Movistar Estudiantes

League: ACB

Notable Alumni: Sergio Rodriguez, Felipe Reyes, Juancho Hernangomez, Lucas Nogueira, Vitaly Potapenko, Terry Stotts

Accolades: Three Spanish Cups

If Sotto does indeed want to go the unpopular route, he can instead accept the invitation by Real Madrid’s greatest rival Movistar EstudiantesThe squad is world renowned for its incredible youth program that nurtured former and current members of the Spain national men’s basketball team.

Estudiantes, however, only plays in the ACB or Liga Endesa, which could limit in-game exposure for the young buck.

(Art by Jokas Dasmariñas)

RELATED: A giant leap of faith for Kai Sotto

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