Thursday, March 9, 2023



(Kai Sotto: KS) Hey guys. Kai Sotto for Hiroshima Dragonflies. Thank you for having me, and I'm happy to be here. Towards the end of the season of my NBL season, I talked to my agents. The season will end early, so I wanted to keep playing at a competitive stage and level. I was familiar to the B.LEAGUE. A lot of my friends, a lot of my teammates from the National Team wants to play here. So right after the season, my agent told me Hiroshima Dragonflies would be a good team for me to play in. So I was very excited. I was really looking forward to coming here, and when I arrived here, I saw the team, I saw my teammates, the coaches, and I was really comfortable. I was really happy to meet everybody and the chemistry is good. And now I'm happy I could be where I can play competitive basketball and I can help my team win and be on the winning team. So I just want to contribute what I can to help this team win more and make it to the finals and the championship.

  • What do you think of the Hiroshima Dragonflies and their style of play?

(KS) This team is really good. I said the chemistry is good. And when I first came to practice, I heard a lot of swishes, so I know that this team can shoot and coach was emphasizing that offense was good practices and games, but we got to continue working on our defense and our rebounding. So I think for me, that's a good time for me to step in and try my best to contribute in that area, and defensively I'm starting to show my teammates that they can have the confidence to rely on me when I'm on that court and can help them with my shot blocking abilities and rebounding. That's one of the areas that I have to improve on and it's a good challenge for me to get in this team and to help this team in that area.

  • What are your strengths as a player?

(KS) My strength, I think offensively, I could space the floor. I can be a threat on the post and pretty much whatever my coach needs me to be. Passing, shooting, setting screens, I can pretty much do it defensively. I have to work on defending low guards on the switches at that paint. My teammates can rely on me to protect the rim. And as I said, rebounding will be a key factor for me this league. I know there's a lot of also big players all throughout this league, so it's going to be a good challenge for me and my team. So really looking forward to playing these games.

  • What can you say about the team's speed and fitness?

(KS) When I first came to practice, I told Ryota these Japanese guards quick, they're fast. I'm not the fastest one of the court, but I said I have to find a way so I can catch up to them. But it's good. Playing fast is good because it creates more opportunities offensively for the other guys. When you play fast, everybody moves around and these guys can share the ball. What I love about this team so far, I know there's not much egos. It's just guys who just wants to share the ball, wants to play good basketball. So that said, this is going to be exciting, and just can't wait to play next games with these guys.

  • How do you want to play as a part of this team?

(KS) I'm a big team player. And when I stepped on the practice facilities, when I watched the practice, when I joined the practice, it was a good environment. I could tell these guys enjoyed playing with each other, so I was just happy to be here. And you know, when the practice, the coaches and my teammates let me do whatever to do what I can. Let me be who I am, play how I play. So it's going to be good. I think this team will only get better. And this team is already good. And I just want to help this team make it to the next level, which is the playoffs and the championship. So still got time, still got two months for the playoffs. But I'm already excited to compete and to help this team win more games.

  • Can you tell us about your nickname? Where does "Kaiju" come from?

(KS) My nickname, I've been called Kai, but when I was in high school, actually some fans called me Kaiju. It's one of my big nickname. Some fans from my high school games, like they put posters, kaiju with the big monster. And I was there. Ever since then, Kaiju has been following. Kaiju is good. I learned the Kaiju because I watched the movie Pacific Rim with this big robot getting big Kaiju. So when they called me Kaiju, I knew exactly what Kaiju is. I'm like, okay, I'll take that nickname, sounds cool.

  • Have you tried Japanese food?

(KS) Ever since I was little. And the Philippine Japanese food is big. Wherever I go, Japanese food is already there. Ever since before, I eat Japanese food. So when I got here, it's easy for me because I'm not a picky eater. But I love Japanese food ever since.

  • What are some of your favorite Japanese foods?

(KS) All kind of food. Katsudon, pork, chicken, Karaage, Ramen, Udon, everything. Sushi. I mean I eat everything.

  • What are some spots in Japan you would like to visit?

(KS) Tokyo is probably the most famous place in Japan, so I'm looking forward to go there if we are going. But I mean, I love traveling, so this is a new country for me. It's my first time in Japan, so every road game, every road trip that I will have, I will treasure. And now I'll enjoy every moment, every experience I have in other places in Japan.

  • Are you looking forward to exploring Hiroshima?

(KS) This is my first time in Japan, first time in Hiroshima. So I don't really know much about Hiroshima, so it's just a new place for me. So that's why everything for me is new. So it's good that I'm here. But yeah Hiroshima was a good place, and I just can't wait to see the whole area.

  • Have you been having trouble with your height here in Japan?

(KS) Yeah we were laughing about it, because I told him after my first day I said everything in Japan is small. Like the doorways, everything in the bathroom is small. And they just tell me, Kai, you're just too big. Maybe you're right.

  • Have you been very tall since childhood?

(KS) Yeah. I was pretty much the tallest in my class. My dad was professional basketball player with 6'7". My mom was 6'0", and I'm 7'3". I've been up and tall ever since, so I'm kind of used to being the tallest guy in the room.

  • How are you hoping this experience with the Dragonflies improves you as a player?

(KS) I just want to keep on improving in all my aspects. Offensively, defensively, even off the court, my strength. I need to get stronger, faster. As I said, after my NBL season, I just wanted to keep on playing, keep on getting better, and I think this team will really help me improve and develop, and the next three months will be crucial for me. I just want to keep on getting better every day. And everybody in the team, you know, my teammates, my coaches the staff they really help me get better each day. They help me work out after practice, before practice, strength work, shooting. Everybody's there, everybody's available. So it just gives me the confidence that these guys are willing to help me get better. And I'm willing to help this team win.

  • What can we expect you to bring to the team?

(KS) As I said, offensively, I could pretty much do whatever coach wants me to do. So defensively, my team can rely on me to protect the rim and just to bring that intensity on defense, but everything that I can do, I'll try my best to help this team win. And I've already seen it, I've already heard that this team is a really good team, and I just wanted to make it a little better now that I'm here. So just to have that extra guy that we just need to help my team in whatever I could do. So to get better myself and to help this team win, as I always say.

  • How are you feeling about your debut game on March 8?

(KS) As I said, I just can't wait. I know this team we gonna play against on March 8th. Is a good team. I know Carl Tamayo is there. It's going to be his first game in the B.LEAGUE So it's good to see him because in high school we were kind of rivals in high school, that now we're both professionals at a young age and it's just a good feeling to have. But I've heard some names from coach that this, from the other team that we're going to be playing against is a good team. So I just can't wait as a good challenge for us, especially for me, for my first game on how I can contribute and help this team. So Yeah, I can't wait. I'm ready. I've been excited ever since I've stepped into this country.

  • Has it been easy to adjust to this new team? How have you been getting along with your teammates?

(KS) It depends on the team, and I think this team has a really good culture, good environment. This team already have good chemistry, so I think it's easy for me to step in and just play my own game. And all the guys, the locals, the import, the coaches are good guys, good players, and it's fun to be with them during practice. So for me, I just think it's easy in this team because everybody is willing to help each other. So it's a good environment.

  • Have any of the Filipino B.LEAGUERS been giving you advice?

(KS) They just told me that this league is really competitive and as a big guy, I will be battling, I guess also foreign players the imports every game. So I think they said it's going to be a good challenge for me playing in this league. I just saw how the B.LEAGUE embraced my fellow Filipino players and I just wanted to have that same experience. And just seeing them play well and enjoy having a good experience, I'm going to have the same thing too. So it's going to be a good opportunity for me to play here, to have fun, and to learn.

  • What kind of impact does you playing here in the B.LEAGUE have on younger players back in the Philippines?

(KS) One of the biggest reasons why I play basketball is to be an inspiration for the younger generation. And I'm the first Filipino that played in the NBL, and maybe one of the guys that could have played here, the B.LEAGUE too. So I just want to be an example for the younger kids in the Philippines that if Kai can make it, Kiefer can make it, Thirdy can make it, all these guys can make it, I can make it too. So I just want to give them confidence that if they just keep on working, they could reach far places, they could get to the highest level, they could go wherever they want to go. If they just keep on working, they just keep believing up their stuff.

  • What pushed you to sign Kai Sotto, and how do you think he fits in with your team's system?

(GM: Shuji Okazaki) There are many reasons. It's difficult to explain. I tell you easy to understand reasons. His height and his potential and his mentality. I already said that I think he fits our team very well. He can contribute to our team, especially rebounding after defense rotation. So if we want to get a championship, his play is a key for the second half of the season. He can help every aspect. I think he's getting better day by day with his teammates. For example, he's scoring and making assists from the pick and roll. He also take advantage of his height in the paint area so he can get the rebound. And the block shot is so effective for us. I expect him rebounding and defense, but of course he can shoot and pass. So to be honest, I expect every aspect.

  • How huge is it for you to be playing here?

(KS) I think it's really big because as I said, the NBL season was short. We didn't really make the playoffs, so it was frustrating. So I want to have another opportunity to play another season. So just coming here in the second half of the B.LEAGUE season is good for me to keep on improving, keep on developing, and just keep on winning. I think this is a good team, good culture, so I'm in the right place. Can't wait to start playing.

  • Will this hinder you commitment representing the Philippines in international events?

(KS) I don't think so, because as I said, you got to say this is the second half of the season already. Season will end probably May, so I don't think it will hinder my national team commitments. I'll be here two or three months, give it all my best here. And whatever happens after that, it happens.

  • When do you plan to return to Philippines and help Gilas Pilipinas?

(KS) As I said, it depends. Right now, I'll just focus on these next three months of this team, help this team make the playoffs win the championship, and whatever happens after that happens.

  • After 2 NBL seasons, what is the biggest change you see in yourself?

I think it really helped me, starting my professional career. At 19 years old at a young age, it really helped me mature faster. I learned to control things. Only control things that I can control, there's some things that I can't and just big on focusing on myself, how I can get better each day on the court, off the court. But this is year two heading to year three for me, do I want to end my year two on a high note, and I'm in the right place for that. As I said, this is a great team heading into the playoffs, so I can't wait for me and for this team to achieve greatness this season.

  • What do you expect to gain from this experience in Hiroshima?

I just expect myself just to keep on getting better. I feel like this team is willing to help me get better. This team will give me opportunities to get better, and that's all I need. All I need is an opportunity to get better and I'll grab it. And this will be a good chance for me to keep on playing competitive basketball and just to keep on getting better.

  • Your thoughts on resuming your rivalry with Carl Tamayo in the professional stage?

Carl Tamayo is a really good friend of mine. We were teammates for the national team a couple of times. Men's National Team under 19, under 18. We go way back and we played against each other in high school. So I'm just proud of Carl Tamayo finally going pro. I told him even two years ago he could already go pro right now. So I'm just happy to have him as my first game. I'm excited to see him. I'm excited to play against him. And I'm confident that he will do good in this league. And I know how good Carl Tamayo is.