By John Bryan Ulanday

IT’S the moment of truth for local pride Kai Sotto as he attempts to etch history for the Philippines in the highly-anticipated 2022 National Basketball Association (NBA) Rookie Draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

With the entire Philippine archipelago on his back, Mr. Sotto is hoping to get his name called at the podium to become the first-ever Filipino homegrown draftee in the NBA.

Proceedings start at 8 a.m. (Manila time) with Auburn’s Jabari Smith, Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren as the expected top selections.

Mr. Sotto, the 7-foot-3, threw his hat into the NBA draft sweepstakes after stints with Adelaide 36ers in the Australia National Basketball League (NBL) and Ignite in the NBA G League.

He also showed his wares for both the Gilas Pilipinas youth and men’s teams in different international tournaments with hopes of landing in the NBA as his ultimate destination.

Reaching that goal, however, will not be a walk in the park as the 20-year-old
Filipino is not included in multiple mock drafts by international sports outlets ahead of the draft.

Only Sports Illustrated, which listed him at No. 49 last month, has Mr. Sotto on the radar for the draft that has two rounds for 30 teams.

But Mr. Sotto is unfazed by the odds after solid workouts with the Orlando Magic, New York Knicks, Atlanta Hawks, Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Sacramento Kings and Indiana Pacers.

“Now, I’m getting closer to my dream and our dream. I’m really thankful for their (Filipino fans) support and those I don’t take for granted,” said Mr. Sotto in the interview posted by the Pacers.

“If I make it to the NBA, I’ll be the first Filipino and my dream is to help others get here too,” he added, pointing to his versatility, height, perimeter touch, shot blocking and passing ability as his best assets.

Should Mr. Sotto realize his dream, he would join Filipino-American stalwarts Jordan Clarkson of the Utah Jazz and Jalen Green of the Houston Rockets as the Philippine representatives in the NBA.

Other Fil-American hopefuls in this year’s class are Rutgers’ Ron Harper, Jr. and Kansas’ Remy Martin.