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The Road Diary: Kai Sotto

05 Feb
6 mins read

Written By

Dale Fletcher

Kai Sotto has been a jetsetter over the past 12 months and said it feels like he has been around the world a few times over.

The 218cm Adelaide 36ers centre has travelled to “at least seven countries” over the last year and is well accustomed to an international flight.

“Geez, where have I been, all around Australia, United States, the Philippines, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, there’s probably more,” Sotto said.

Sotto spent the past off-season in the US working out before the 2022 NBA Draft, then played a few FIBA World Cup qualifiers for the Philippines, one game extra special in Manila.

“That game was a great moment, one of my best moments in my basketball career,” Sotto said.

“This was everything I was dreaming of since I was a little kid, it’s a great feeling.”

With some many kilometres travelled in the sky, you would think the points on Sotto’s Frequent Flyer card would be in the tens of thousands.

“I actually don’t have a frequent flyers card, everyone keeps saying I should have one,” Sotto said.

“I would probably have a few points by now.”

On the road, sleeping is a favourite pastime for Sotto and he’s never found a bed he can’t sleep in.

“I’m a very chilled guy, I just want to sleep a lot, I go straight to my room and just chill and sleep,” he said.

At the airport, Sotto is very popular, always running into fans and supporters who are after autographs, photos or both, but the big man is happy to accommodate.

Then the real games begin when the playing cards make their appearance while the team waits to fly to their next destination.

@adelaide36ers Magic. #KaiSotto #MitchMcCarron #NBA #Basketball ? original sound - Adelaide 36ers

“Waiting for the flights, me, H (Hyrum Harris), KG (Kyrin Galloway), Sunday (Dech), play this card game, it’s called Dutch,” Sotto said.

“Everyone has basically got involved now, it has spread to the whole team by the end of the season.”

By the time the cards are done and Sotto gets on the plane, he has his favourite options to past the time.

“During the flights, I download a lot of movies, listen to music,” Sotto said.

“I got a lot of favourites; I watch Netflix a lot.

“I watch a lot of old movies, so anything with Adam Sandler or Will Smith in it, those are my favourites.”

@adelaide36ers #KaiSotto with a hook so good it terrified Peter Pan. #nbl #Sotto #basketball ? original sound - Adelaide 36ers

Sotto spends a lot of time in the exit rows on planes but has been cramped in the economy section every now and again.

“There’s been a few flights in economy. There was one in the States, between Phoenix and Oklahoma City,” Sotto said.

“That flight was only about 45 minutes but my legs were across the aisle and it made life difficult for the attendants.

“I was actually next to you, so that was a bit rough.

“There was also one from Tasmania to Perth a couple of weeks back, that one hurt my back.”

After spending hours in the exit rows, Sotto has admitted he knows the safety message which is said before each flight off by heart and would be the saviour in the case of an emergency.

“I could be sleeping and if emergency comes on I’m straight onto it, I know what I’m doing,” Sotto said.

“We are all in good hands with me, we would be good.”

When there’s no exit rows, Sotto has also experienced the life in Business class.

“It’s very different, you feel rich to be honest, sitting in that nice seat with extra leg room, nice movies, you’re comfortable, better assistance, better food, better everything.

“I’m OK with the normal seats, but at least exit row is nice.”

You can’t walk through an airport terminal, a shopping mall, a restaurant or a footpath with Sotto without at least one photo, autograph or shoutout.

“If there’s a big Filipino then it gets bigger (the amount of photos), but sometimes we can go unnoticed,” Sotto said.

“Of all of Australia, I think Darwin had the most fans for me, there was a lot up there.”

The 36ers and the rest of the NBL were in the Top End for the Blitz, which Adelaide won and Sotto was the main man all week.

“That’s the most Filipinos I’ve seen in one spot in Australia,” he said.

Sotto said at least four or five times per day he gets asked how tall he is.

“But it’s fine, if I saw someone really tall, I’d probably ask how tall they are as well,” he said.

“I’ve never asked how tall the fans are, now that would be funny.”

With sleep a key part of his travel itinerary, Sotto is a very quiet roommate, but he has his favourites as well.

“My guy last season was Manny Malou, he’s my best friend,” Sotto said.

“Sunday (Dech) has been my roommate for most of this year, so he’s my favourite roommate.

“I had KG (Galloway) in Darwin and H (Harris) at times, they are all great roommates actually.

@adelaide36ers #KaiSotto says no! #block #basketball #ball ? original sound - Adelaide 36ers

“I like KG, we play 2K (NBA 2K23) a lot, the PlayStation comes on the road and he’s really funny when he plays.”

Sotto got his first taste of the big league during the 36ers’ NBL x NBA pre-season tour tot the US, which included the historic 134-124 win against the Phoenix Suns.

The 218cm was a real hit, and even spent an afternoon with ESPN walking through the streets of Arizona doing a feature interview, with the fans following every step.

“The States was a great experience, I hadn’t been to Phoenix or OKC before,” he said.

“That’s my goal. That’s my dream.”

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