Kai Sotto, the 7-foot-2 star of the Ateneo Blue Eaglets, will put all his efforts into pursuing an NBA career.
"I'll be leaving soon to start training full-time," he wrote in a post on his Instagram account on Monday afternoon. "I want to devote the next two to three years to single-mindedly focus on my goal of joining the NBA by 2021 or 2022."
Sotto is reportedly going to train in the U.S. but there was no specific details who he will train with. European ball clubs including Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, Baskonia, Alba Berlin, and Movistar Estudiantes have also pursued Sotto.
"After a lot of effort by me and my Dad to assess all the opportunities presented to me, I strongly feel (with his advice and the advice of other experienced mentors) that leaving immediately to start my training and getting the right exposure will go a long way to help me realize my dream," Sotto said.
At only 16-years-old, Sotto is a high school prodigy with a unique combination of talent, height, and skill. He is coming off a career year in the UAAP Juniors Division where he emerged as the MVP with averages of 25.1 points, 13.9 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 2.6 blocks.
"This is for my future, my family, and especially for Batang Gilas, Gilas Pilipinas, and most of all, for the country," he said in Filipino.
He also thanked Ateneo and all the people who supported him along the way.
"I will strive very hard to not let you down," he closed.
In a statement, Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) president Al Panlilio said they fully support Sotto's decision.
"We also commend Kai for his commitment to play for Batang Gilas in the World Cup in Greece, and in future international competitions of the men's national team, Gilas Pilipinas, including the FIBA World Cup here in 2023," Panlilio said in the statement.
"The SBP is closely coordinating with the management team of Kai to ensure that all his needs are addressed and his stay in the US will be worthwhile and fruitful," he added. "We are praying, together with the rest of our country, that the elusive dream of each and every one of us to have a natural born Filipino play in the NBA will become a reality."
ESPN5's JC Ansis contributed to this report.