A “giant monster” is preparing to stalk the courts and playing fields of the Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill Complex, the largest indoor sports complex in North America.
Kai Sotto – the 7-foot-3, 18-year-old basketball phenom who is on a path to becoming the first native born son of the Philippines to play in the NBA – has announced that his Kaiju Academy will be housed at Spooky Nook, the 1.3 million-square-foot sports facility under construction in a former Champion paper mill in Hamilton, Ohio. It is slated to open in late 2021.
“It is a dream come true to mentor young athletes globally,” Sotto, currently a member of the NBA G League Team Ignite, said in a release. “Kaiju is the Japanese term for monster, beast, strange creature, and it perfectly captures the ideal basketball competitor that I aim to be. Basketball isn’t easy and sometimes, it will knock you down more than it builds you up. I wanted my brand and my Academy to be about resilience.
“The idea is that the Kaiju Academy teaches these young athletes to play ‘like a beast’ on the court and to be amazing men and women off the court,” he said. “I want young men and young women to get the right experience, development, exposure and mentorships to become their best true self both mentally and physically and create an ecosystem of Kaijus that is healthy for all athletes and their families.”
Spooky Nook Sports President Jim Launer said the company’s Spooky Nook Pennsylvania facility has been privileged to host a number of international events over the past seven years.
“We hope to continue this trend in Hamilton, alongside the Kaiju Academy and other similar partners,” Launer said. “The Nook is known as a top-notch destination for clubs, tournaments and competitions nationally, and we hope to continue to grow that reputation in the international space.”
Sotto is bypassing college basketball and in May became the first international player to sign a contract with the specially formed G League Elite Development Team with four other top draft prospects of his class — Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, Daishen Nix and Isaiah Todd. His Kaiju Academy hopes to attract young men, women and teams from across the U.S. and internationally. Before moving with his family to the United States, Sotto was a member of the Philippines National Team.
“More and more teams internationally are looking to augment their off-season training with higher level competition combined with elite type skills and development,” said Chot Reyes, former Gilas Philippines National Team Coach. “The Kaiju Academy can also serve as a feeder system to identify and develop future national team players who were born in the US. Overall, it presents opportunities that used to just be pipe dreams before. It’s a game changer.”
“I’m impressed that someone as young as Kai would have thought to start his own academy,” Reyes said.
Located in the heart of downtown Hamilton, the Spooky Nook Sports Champion Mill Complex will feature more than 20 basketball courts as well as football fields, indoor rock climbing wall, indoor track oval, batting cages, training staff and on-site hotel. It is the only venue expansive enough to accommodate basketball players from amateur to pro with passion as intense as their skills.
“The City of Hamilton congratulates Kaiju Academy and Spooky Nook Sports on their partnership. A partnership where the term ‘world-class’ comes to mind,” said Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller. “A world-class athlete creating a world-class academy at a world-class sports complex here in Hamilton. We welcome Kai Sotto and his Kaiju Academy to our city.”
“The mission of Spooky Nook Sports has always been to ‘create incredible places for people to gather, develop, play, and compete’. And what we’ve learned is that when you have this operation truly living up to that mission, people want to see it for themselves,” said Spooky Nook Sports founder and owner Sam Beiler.
“One of our goals in Hamilton is to create this type of impact that supports local hotels, restaurants, gas stations, and a myriad of small business,” Beiler said. “The city of Hamilton has a proud history of dedication to the community, a strong and ready workforce, and we are excited to partner with them to rebuild the Champion Mill site and surrounding area.”
Sotto described Spooky Nook as a “monstrous” state-of-the-art facility that is far ahead of its time.
“What drew me to it was the eco system Spooky Nook has created for families and their athletes,” Sotto said. “But it’s not just about the facility. The owners and the senior management team are very authentic leaders, with character and values that match mine, my family’s and my network. When the ecosystem comes together like that it is roadmap for greatness and success.”
In addition to passing on his basketball teams to players who visit the Kaiju Academy, Sotto said one of the most rewarding aspects of the academy will be giving back to other young people who share his dreams of success.
“It’s what I want my legacy to be and it’s imbedded deep in my soul,” he said. “I want to give back to both young men and young women around the world who want to better themselves and reach their athletic dreams.”