After Kai Sotto's impressive effort in the Adelaide 36ers' king-sized 134-124 win over the Phoenix Suns in the NBA exhibition game on Monday (Philippine time), PBA coaches Tim Cone and Ariel Vanguardia shared their thoughts on the young Filipino center's continued NBA pursuit.
"Any chance he has to play against the highest level, the NBA, will make him a better player," Cone told The Manila Times on Monday, upon learning of Sotto's solid outing that saw the wunderkid score 11 points, highlighted by a pair of dunks, two boards, the same number of steals and an assist in 18 minutes of action.
The Barangay Ginebra coach likes the skill sets of the 20-year-old former Ateneo Blue Eaglet, having seen the young slotman play during Gilas Pilipinas' games against Lebanon and Saudi Arabia in the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.
And the American mentor is convinced that Sotto is just barely scratching the surface of his potential.
"He still has so much growth and potential ahead of him, and any exposure he gets with the NBA will perk their interest," shared Cone, the PBA's all-time winning coach. "No doubt, Kai has some unique skills, and it's just a matter of time before they take notice. Kai just needs to keep working."
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Sotto worked out with several NBA teams prior to the 2022 NBA Draft, but went undrafted last June.
Meantime, Vanguardia said he watched the 36ers' game against the Suns with the Blackwater coaching staff, and judging from Sotto's performance, he believes the Gilas mainstay is a "good compliment" to his Adelaide teammates.
"Looks like he's a good compliment to their main guys," said Vanguardia. "Kai is a lot better player and plays with a lot more playing time so he will have a better season for Adelaide."
Vanguardia, the Blackwater head coach, said seeing Sotto play against Suns' stars Chris Paul and Devin Booker was a real "proud Pinoy moment."
One thing the 7-foot-2 young Filipino giant needs to do is bulk up, knowing that he'll always have his hands full defending big American or European players as he continue to develop his skills overseas.
"Everybody knows he needs to bulk up, get stronger and I'm sure his trainers are working on it," he said. "He was also winded in the game and was not sprinting at times. so (in) that (aspect) he also has to be consistent, but he will be in the NBA someday."