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Tiebreaker Times


Amir Johnson takes Kai Sotto under his wing

Kai Sotto had been training with the world’s top NBA prospects for the past two months.

Moreover, the 7-foot-2 has been under the tutelage of former Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw.

But for the G League Ignite program, that is not enough yet. It also tapped five former NBA players to serve not only as reinforcements for the young team, but also as mentors to them.

Sotto is fortunate that 14-year NBA veteran Amir Johnson has been mentoring him both on and off the court.

“I catch myself working with Kai on the weight room a lot. Kai has so much skill,” gushed Johnson after Ignite’s 99-125 loss to the G League veterans, Friday.

Though the UAAP Season 81 Juniors Basketball MVP has much potential, the 2018 NBA Hustle Award winner believes Sotto can only unlock it if he works on two things – his footwork and his strength.

“I feel like he has to work on a little bit of footwork and he can be better at strength. I feel like that those are the two things that lack in him. But for skill work, as a seven-foot guy? Sheesh, he is amazing, man,” continued Johnson.

“He has it all.”

After being in the NBA for more than a decade, Johnson – who played for Detroit, Toronto, Boston, and Philadelphia – has seen the game evolve in front of his eyes. Big men no longer camp under the post and should have at least a perimeter shot. Besides this, centers now have the task to toughen it up and defend all five positions on the floor.

#ReadMore  Mom Pamela won't leave Kai Sotto alone abroad: 'Malaki lang siya, still bata pa rin'

But for the 6-foot-9 undersized forward, the post-game is not dead. And he plans on working with Sotto for the next few months in developing his game down low.

“Back when I was playing in ’05, you have to bulk up. Now you have to guard wings. For him, if you can be that dominant post player, that will definitely keep you on the floor. To add to that, if you can switch one to five – which Golden State does a lot and other teams are starting to do – that will keep you in the game more. Being a big man, there’s always room to get better,” shared Johnson, who had career numbers of 7.0 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game.

“That’s why we are here in the G League – to work on every spot on the floor. That is the NBA – you want to be able to guard one to five and, at the same time, be that dominant post man. We haven’t had one since Shaq [O’Neal]. But, you want to be able to do that. He’s working on it and he’s getting there.”

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