Barangay Ginebra's Tim Cone and Alaska Aces' Jeff Cariaso believe Kai Sotto's decision to skip college and join the G League's developmental program for the 2020-21 season would incredibly benefit his growth.
In an interview on NBA Philippines' Republika Huddle podcast, both coaches said Sotto is in a rare situation where passing up on college education in favor of a greater goal is actually encouraged.
"First of all, let me just say that normally I would encourage everybody to go to college. But there are unique situations, and both Kai and Jalen (Green) are unique in the game of basketball," said Cone. "Again, it's really unusual, but more than education, his ability to develop as a basketball player is the priority for him right now. So I think it's a really good idea."
"Yes, it would have been different going to school and get that education. As a parent, you'd think that you always encourage your kids to go to school, but this a unique experience," Cariaso offered. "[But] I say go for it. It's gonna be a challenge from day one, but I think he's expecting it."
Sotto became the first international prospect to join the reshaped professional pathway program after announcing his decision on May 14 to play alongside top high school prospects Green, Isaiah Todd and Daishen Nix for a southern California-based team not affiliated with an existing franchise.
Given how the G League's thrust in the groundbreaking one-year program is specifically tailored to cater to the prospects' development, Cone hailed Sotto's choice as "the best chance for him into develop into the kind of player that they're hoping for."
"They have a lot of development-type coaches in the G-League, and the level of competition they will go against is going to be much higher than it would be if they just went as a freshman in college," noted Cone. "I really do think this is a good decision for him."
"The key is: are they going to get playing time? I think that was the problem with Japeth Aguilar when he went to college in the United States. He didn't get the guaranteed playing time that he thought he was going to get, so he didn't get that opportunity to develop," he added. "I think this is good because he's going to the G League, whose whole thrust is just to develop these guys. It's not about winning, it's not about losing. It's about developing these guys as players."
Cariaso, on the other hand, said Sotto would have to continue building on the tremendous strides he has made since he saw him make the Jr. NBA program's All-Stars in 2016 when the 7-foot-2 prodigy was only 13 years old.
"It's amazing how you see him four years later after that Jr. NBA stint in 2016 and it's exciting to see where he is now. He has more to learn and more growth to happen for him, but I think he's really on the right path."
But even though Sotto still has a lot of growing to do, particularly on the physical aspect, Cone said the 17-year-old big man's physique is actually fit for the modern style of the NBA game that has strayed away from post-ups and general back-to-the-basket action in recent years.
"He moves well and he has a feathery touch. He's more along the lines of a modern center than if you wanted to be like a Shaq (O'Neal) or Wilt Chamberlain or something like that. He's not that type of player, which is exactly what he should be because that's not the way the game is played now," said Cone. "It's now evolved, the big men are evolving. They're starting to step out. He has that ability to roll off ball screens and finish at the rim, but he also has the ability to face up and play along the three-point line."
"I think that he's on the right track for the for the kind of game. I think the kind of game that we have now is built for his type of body. So I think that's really good news for him," added Cone.
Cariaso and Cone also expressed optimism about Sotto's pairing with Green, whom both described as a "tremendous" talent.
"He kinda reminds me of that young Kobe a little bit where you can do everything; at his age level, he is really at that elite level amongst his peers," observed Cariaso. "His skill set is already that good where he needs to kind of up the level to kind of make his game improve also. It's really now about his growth and really improving in every aspect. But when you watch him, he's athletic, he can shoot, he's a defender, his energy is non-stop. Seems like he's coachable."
"I've only just seen highlights of him. The highlights of him are out of this world," Cone remarked. "He's one of those guys that can probably go right away from high school into the pro game. But being with the G-League is going to make him even more prepared."
"You can't sleep on the G-League. G-League's got some tremendous talent, and they got some really good coaching. These shortened seasons for these guys is going to be right up their alley," Cone added. "When (Green) reaches the NBA -- and that's going to happen for sure -- he's going to go in very, very well-prepared. Probably the most well-prepared player that we may have seen."