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Analysis: Kai Sotto’s Australian NBL debut

Rick Olivares - Philstar.com
Analysis: Kai Sottoâs Australian NBL debut
Kai Sotto

MANILA, Philippines — The Cairns Taipans blew out the lackluster Adelaide 36ers, 93-67, at the Cairns Convention Centre last Saturday, December 18.

It was a galling loss that spoiled Kai Sotto’s NBL debut where the young Filipino finished with one point (3-4 free throw shooting), three rebounds, two assists, and two blocked shots in nine minutes and 50 seconds of action for Adelaide that tumbled to a 2-3 record.

This is not the UAAP. It’s professional basketball with an international flavor where tall, strong, and athletic players are the norm.

It was an all right debut. Not good but filled with potential. 

What are my thoughts about his NBL debut?

I like how he was a defensive presence

He blocked Cairns center Nathan Jawai once and forced him to miss another. The next time Jawai went at him, he muscled him down where he had the advantage.

He also blocked Bul Kuol inside and forced Tajhere McCall to pass when he had Kai meeting him in the lane.

Kai needed to feel this kind of tough play

One might say that he could have done more. Maybe. Maybe not. When you’ve missed the last three matches including the pre-season you feel your way in; you don’t demand it.

I thought that for his first field goal attempt, he should have dunked it and not pump fake. Although he is the tallest player on the court, there are a lot of huge players here. Far from what he has experienced anywhere. 

I am sure next time, he’ll dunk that ball. 

I love how he found two of his teammates for a bucket

The first was a nifty bounce pass inside the lane to forward Todd Withers who was fouled but split his free throws.

Then there was that lob inside the lane to center Daniel Johnson for a twisting undergoal stab.

I thought that when Adelaide coach CJ Bruton can see what Kai can bring, he should run their offense at times on Sotto because he can see the floor well.

He showed some moves

Early in the fourth period, Kai put the ball on the floor, surprising the Taipans. He drove and got fouled by Majok Deng.

Kai can do that for short distances but not too far because that ball will get swiped. However, I figure Kai, because of his basketball intelligence, will adjust to that. He has had it swiped before but he also has done well to protect the ball. 

If Kai can play that post faster, he’ll be really good.

There was that botched pick and roll with Mitch McCarron but I thought that was too tight a pass. In a close game, it would have been fine. In a blow out, it looks terrible.

Of course, there is the other side of the coin where Kai must work on certain things.

We saw Kai muscled down several times either by Jawai or Stephen Zimmerman; both strong and burly players.

Bulk up or get stronger? Or both?

I am not sure how much more Kai can bulk up. But I wonder if he can get stronger? Like Kristaps Porzingis rather than Shawn Bradley.

He needs to get not only stronger but mentally tougher. And on that note, I like how he didn’t back down from Keanu Pinder when Kai first got sent in and there was a brief shoving match. Credit also to Adelaide captain Mitch McCarron for defending Kai.

I am tempted to say he needs to assert himself but when you are barely out of your 20s and playing with grown men, you tend to take a backseat. But I would love to let his game do the talking. We’d love to see it translate into the defensive end then into the offensive end. 

I know that taller players will straddle the three-point line today. But I thought that was an instance or two where Kai was outside when he should have gone in.

I think he needs to show that in practice that he can do it – hit the outside shot. He showed he could do it before. 

We’ll find out how Kai Sotto adjusts (as his team does) when the Adelaide 36ers return to their homecourt of the Adelaide Entertainment Centre this Tuesday, December 28 (4:30PM in Manila and televised on Tap Sports on Skycable and Cignal and on streaming via the Tap Go application) to play the 3-1 Perth Wildcats. It will be a big game.

ADELAIDE 36ERS

AUSTRALIA NATIONAL BASKETBALL LEAGUE

CAIRNS TAIPANS

KAI SOTTO

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