BY BONG PEDRALVEZ and MICHAEL JUGADO
AMERICAN basketball wunderkind Jalen Green looks forward to partnering on the court with towering teener Kai Sotto once they start playing together in the G-League Select Team under respected coach and former Los Angeles Laker mainstay Brian Shaw.
“Me and Kai have a good relationship. I talked to him a couple of times (when I visited) the Philippines,” Green noted in an online press conference yesterday organized by NBA Philippines for next week’s “NBA Republika Playoffs Party, Take Two.”
“When he (Sotto) went to the G-League I said congrats. I am excited to play with him and represent our Philippines,” added the talented 6-foot-5 swingman, whose mother is Bree Purganan, a Filipina nurse from Ilocos Sur.
Aspiring to become the first home-grown Filipino to play in the NBA, the 7-foot-2 Sotto, 18, has been in the US training for the last two years and has worked out at the training camp of the Atlanta Hawks in Atlanta, Georgia.
A member of the US squads that won the FIBA Under-17 and FIBA Under-19 World Cups in 2018 and 2019, respectively, Green was the top pick of the G-League Select Team featuring potential NBA prospects who will be under a one-year contract to play with the developmental squad.
Based in Fresno, California, the former San Joaquin Memorial High School star is expected to receive the max G-League contract of $500,000 (roughly P24.5 million).
Aside from Green and Sotto, others who were tapped as the team’s starting five were 6-foot-8 forward Jonathan Kuminga, 6-5 guard Nix Daishen, and 6-foot-10 power forward Isaiah Todd.
Displaying humility, the FIBA Under-17 World Cup MVP said he didn’t believe that his decision to forego college hoops and go straight to the pros was a key factor in the decision of the other cage standouts in joining the G-League Select Team.
“While I consider them as my bros, it is their decision to do what they wanna do,” Green stressed. “I am very excited to play with every single one of them. I believe we’ll get better playing and working together. It will be all for our benefit.
“It is a great way to develop my game. We have an excellent staff, and the more prepared we will be once we play in the NBA.”
Green said he’s bracing to go toe-to-toe with the big boys in the G League.
“We’re 18-year-olds playing in a grown man’s league so I wouldn’t be surprised to have a target on my back,” he said. “But I think I’m ready for it. I’ve had a target on my back since my first year in high school. So this does not really faze me anymore.”
Green battled Sotto in the NBTC National Finals in the last three years as a member of the FilAm Sports USA.
The top-ranked high school player in the US and projected to be among the top picks in the 2021 NBA draft, Green expects the select squad to prove its worth, adding he and Sotto could play well together.
“I expect everyone to come to the gym every day and work their best out because these are high school elite players who chose this route to get to the NBA. There can’t be slack, there can’t be day-offs, I expect everyone to come to the gym looking to get better every day. And at the same time, we have to build chemistry because if we want to go on the court and play, we got to be on the same page,” he said.
“Kai’s a great player. I think he can be good, and we’ll be really great together. Other than that, we got to represent the Philippines so it’s gonna be exciting.”