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Olympic stint thrills Kai coach

Bea Micaller

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KAI Sotto (left) is being groomed to see action in the Olympics. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF FIBA.NET

With the way Kai Sotto is playing, it won’t be a surprise if he ends up competing in the Paris Olympics in 2024.

Sotto’s coach in Rob Johnson believes that the 18-year-old Filipino sensation has what it takes to compete against the best players in the world when the next edition of the Olympics unwraps four years from now.

Sotto is no stranger to the international stage.

He powered the Philippines to a rare appearance in the FIBA U17 World Cup in Argentina, where he averaged 16.4 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks in 2018.

The following year, he suited up in the FIBA U19 World Cup in Greece, where he posted a tournament-leading 3.1 blocks per game.

Now, he is part of the 23-man pool that will see action in the FIBA World Cup in 2023 and various Olympic-qualifying tournaments.

Should the team emerge successful, Sotto would definitely fulfill his dream of playing in the Paris Olympics.

By then, he should be at the peak of his professional career at 22 years old and probably has one or two years of NBA experience under his belt.

“I think the Olympics will be a very big stage for Kai and will give him a chance to see him represent his country against the top countries in the world,” Johnson, Sotto’s coach at The Skills Factory in Atlanta, said in a recent interview with the Olympic Channel.

“He will be very exciting to watch on that stage.”

Johnson said Sotto had tremendous improvement since he decided to go full blast in his training in the United States.

In a game against kids his age, Sotto emerged as Most Valuable Player after posting 27 points, 10 rebounds, six blocks and four assists in 25 minutes of play during their 112-102 win over Believe Prep of South Carolina in the finals of The Skills Factory King Invitational.

He drew the attention of topnotch National Collegiate Athletic Association programs like Boston College, Kentucky, Auburn, Georgia Tech, DePaul and Georgia before ending up in the NBA G League, where he would team up with fellow top prospects Jalen Green, Daishen Nix and Isiah Todd.

“Kai has a great attitude about training. He is a gym rat,” Johnson said.

“He loves finding out information to apply to his game to help him improve, Kai is very enjoyable to work with.”

Johnson said he would do everything to bring Sotto to the NBA and, eventually, to the Olympics.

“It’s challenging for me too because I have to continue to challenge myself to come up with ways to maximize his gifts,” Johnson said.

“But he is dedicated to the game and enjoys the process of working and learning so it has been a pleasure so far.”

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