MANILA, Philippines -- Former Talk 'N Text head coach Bill Bayno, now a part of the Indiana Pacers' coaching staff, is optimistic that Kai Sotto has what it takes to make an NBA breakthrough.
Bayno, who coached the then-Phone Pals in 2002 and led them to a runner-up finish in the Commissioner's Cup, discussed the 7-foot teenager extensively in an online coaching seminar over the weekend.
The talk was organized by Ariel Vanguardia, the former Phoenix Fuel Masters head coach who was part of Bayno's coaching staff in Talk 'N Text.
Bayno revealed that he has a connection to Sotto, whose trainer Frank Molak is a high school teammate of Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse. Nurse and Bayno had worked together with the Raptors and developed a close friendship.
"The scouting report I get from Kai is he's still young, he needs to get tougher, and he needs to be a little bit more aggressive, which is normal for any kid that age," Bayno said of Sotto, who moved to the United States in 2019 and has since been part of the Atlanta-based prep school The Skill Factory.
"But (Sotto) has the skill set already," he added. "He has an NBA skill set, in that he can shoot and pass for a 7-foot kid."
Sotto has already caught the eye of several US universities, making unofficial visits to University of Kentucky, Auburn University, and Boston College. He also participated in the Basketball Without Borders camp last February, and most recruiting services rate him as a four-star prospect. ESPN listed him as the No. 68 recruit in the Class of 2020.
Reportedly, Sotto is being eyed by the NBA G League as well to be part of its professional pathway program, after already signing up Jalen Green -- a top recruit who is of Filipino descent.
For Bayno, it's clear that the 17-year-old has all the potential in the world to be the first homegrown Filipino to make it to the NBA.
"Hopefully, he's training on the other stuff and how physical the NBA game is," he said. "But Kai may be your first. He may be the first Filipino (in the NBA)."
While there have been players of Filipino descent in the NBA -- including Utah's Jordan Clarkson -- no homegrown product has ever been drafted.
Bayno said he is willing to give Sotto some advice as he continues in his journey.
"I don't know Kai personally, but I do have somewhat of a connection to him," he said. "I'd love to help him out, if he ever needed any advice. I'd love to talk to him."
"I'm not allowed to work with him, because he's a prospect and I'm an NBA coach, but let's hope he's the first one," he added. "And if he's not, I think there's someone coming down the line."
"You're gonna have a Filipino NBA player here soon. I really believe that."
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