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Sotto gets veteran support



ISAAC Humphries is tipped to mentor Kai Sotto when he competes for the Adelaide 36ers in the NBL. / PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF ADELAIDE 36ERS

Kai Sotto is in good hands as he is tipped to get a handful of veteran support when he sees action for the Adelaide 36ers in the National Basketball League (NBL) in Australia.

NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said Sotto would have seasoned big men Daniel Johnson and Isaac Humphries to bank on when he launches his professional career with the goal of becoming the first full-blooded Filipino in the National Basketball Association (NBA).

A 6-foot-11 member of the Australian national team, Johnson is regarded as one of Australia’s brightest stars for his high basketball intelligence, excellent post-game and great perimeter shooting.

On the same note, Humphries can also be a big help to Sotto after playing for the Kentucky Wildcats in college. He went undrafted in the NBA Draft in 2017, but still managed to see action for the Atlanta Hawks with a prolific playmaker in Trae Young at the helm.

“Johnson is a superstar of the game. He has fantastic post game, but also a great perimeter game. As a result, he stretches the floor, and has fantastic basketball IQ as well,” said Loeliger, who was the chief executive of the NBL from 2016 to 2019.

“Humphries, a big, almost seven-footer I would say, with some NBA experience. He’s going to give Kai a good indication in practice on what is like playing in the NBL.”

After a botched stint in the NBA G League, Sotto reached a deal with the 36ers last April that will enable him to play in the 2021-2022 season.

His decision is very similar to what rising stars like LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton who spent a season in Australia’s top tier league before becoming first-round picks in the NBA Annual Rookie Draft last year.

Loeliger admitted that the level of competition in the NBL would never be easy.

“He has all the attributes to be a long-term NBA star, but he is too young and inexperienced so he will have to learn exactly what the Adelaide 36ers in the NBL are,” Loeliger said.

“One of the things you try to do is not put too much pressure on the athlete. You don’t throw them out and expect them to perform in their first game against seasoned veterans and there’s a number of them playing in the five spot in the NBL.”

There’s tremendous pressure on Sotto entering the NBL.

No less than five-time Olympian Shane Heal said the bigger, older and stronger players in the NBL will not treat him easily so Sotto has to show up with mental toughness and confidence.

“Well, you can understand why. What he will do will be interesting at that size and being skinny playing in a man’s league, where people will get physical with him,” Heal said.

Utah Jazz swingman Jordan Clarkson, meanwhile, said Sotto has to stay hungry and motivated to survive not just the NBL, but the professional circuit as well.

“For him, I just want to tell him to just go over there, go hard, don’t put limits on yourself and just keep grinding,” said Clarkson, who shares locker room with one of Australia’s best shooter in Joe Ingles.