For the past year, 7-foot-2 Kai Sotto has been rebuilding himself in preparation for the G League and, hopefully, the NBA.
First off, he is currently building mass at Peak Performance Project as he prepares to bang bodies with players much stronger than him.
“Actually, two-hundred twenty-nine pounds na ako. I’m still working out sa P3. Target weight namin is two-thirty to two-forty pounds, something like that.”
Then there’s his game.
As mentioned before, the 18-year-old has been under the tutelage of “The Rifleman” himself, Chuck Person.
Under Person, Sotto has gained the confidence to shoot well beyond the arc — something he avoided during his time in Ateneo.
After all, he does not want to be left out of the revolution going on in the NBA right now.
Gone are big men who only patrol the paint. Thriving in the game today are the likes of 7-foot Serbian Nikola Jokic and 7-foot-3 Latvian Kristaps Porzingis.
“Siguro ‘yung sa mga laro ngayon, ‘yung mga players na tinitingala ko is sila Nikola Jokic and Kristaps Porzingis,” he shared.
But of course, Sotto is not just looking at this generation.
A student of the game, he always watches films to see how former NBA MVPs and multiple-time champions Hakeem Olajuwon and Tim Duncan thrived in the paint.
“Wala akong parang isang player na tinitingala. Lahat ng nakikita kong NBA players parang pinagsasama ko,” the best center in the 2018 FIBA Under-18 Asia Cup said.
“Sa mga player dati, si Tim Duncan at Hakeem Olajuwon. Sila ‘yung lagi kong pinapanood and I try to learn from.”
Watching Duncan and Olajuwon, Sotto knows that it’s not just the offense that made them great. Their offense made the two All-Stars, but it was the defense that made them hall-of-famers.
“I want to get better defensively, and ‘pag naging magaling na defensive player ako, ibig sabihin nu’n parang lumakas at bumilis ako. Marami akong kayang gawin by playing defense, and sa tingin ko naman, offensively madali na sa akin lalo na ‘pag five-on-five kasi madali na sa akin mag-read ng situations,” said Sotto when asked where he wants to improve.
“Kailangan ko lang maging better defensively.”
Outside of those players, there’s one person that Kai wants to emulate — his dad Ervin.
Ervin made a huge sacrifice for his son when they decided to move to the States. He had to leave stable jobs in PBA club NLEX and MPBL team 1Bataan.
On the court, the 6-foot-7 Ervin was no slouch either, having been part of the 2003 SEA Games gold medal-winning team while having a solid eight-year career in the PBA.
That is why when asked who his favorite international player is, Kai quipped:
“Siguro, si Ervin Sotto.”
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