A distinguished member of the Los Angeles Lakers sees a bright future for Kai Sotto as he tries to become the first full-blooded Filipino to see action in the National Basketball Association.
Phil Handy, who won three NBA titles as part of the coaching staff of the Lakers, said the 7-foot-2 Sotto can make it to the NBA given the right training and right circumstances.
Since going undrafted last year, Sotto has been working hard to make it to the NBA.
He played for the Adelaide 36ers in the National Basketball League in Australia then moved to Hiroshima Dragonflies in the Japan B. League.
After a season in Japan, he is trying his luck anew in the NBA as he joined the workouts of the Utah Jazz, Dallas Mavericks and New York Knicks.
Now, he’s just waiting for a call, hoping to join the Summer League that will serve as his ticket to a roster spot on opening night.
Handy said anything is possible.
“I believe he’s very talented,” said the 51-year-old Handy, who blew into town on Monday to hold basketball clinics with some university teams and the Converge FiberXers in the Philippine Basketball Association and do some charity work.
“I don’t believe in putting timelines on athletes. I’ve had a chance to see him play for a couple of years. He’s naturally gifted. He spent some time down in Australia, and that really helped develop his game.”
The Phil Handy Tour goes through the Philippines and Singapore, and was organized by CST Accountants and Advisors, which has offices in Sydney, Los Angeles, New York, London and the Philippines. This is their first international sporting event.
‘I believe he’s very talented.’
Handy has vast experience training elite athletes.
In fact, despite going undrafted in 1995, the 6-foot-5 Handy had a stellar international career that brought him to France, Great Britain and Australia before retiring in 2002.
In 2011, he was hired as player development coach of the Lakers, helping head coach Mike Brown handle a powerful core of Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Metta World Peace and Andrew Bynum.
He stayed with the Lakers for two years until he joined Brown when he moved to the Cleveland Cavaliers, gaining a golden opportunity to coach LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson.
He also coached under Nick Nurse with the Toronto Raptors, where he worked with Kawhi Leonard, Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam before returning to the Lakers to assist head coach Frank Vogel.
All in all, he won NBA titles in 2016, 2019 and 2020, making him one of the NBA’s most decorated assistant coaches.
Handy said it’s just a matter of timing before Sotto cracks into the NBA.
“It really just depends on opportunity,” he said, advising Sotto to always be ready.
“Sometimes, players’ opportunities come at different times. The advice I would give Kai is to keep working, keep playing, and keep being ready for the opportunity.”
“It could be this summer, it could be next year. It really just depends on the opportunity.”