MANILA, Philippines -- The new coach of the Adelaide 36ers has high expectations for Filipino center Kai Sotto, a player he's been monitoring for quite a while now.
CJ Bruton was hired as the new coach of the 36ers in September, replacing Connor Henry who parted ways with the franchise in August.
With the move, the 45-year-old Bruton will finally get to coach Sotto, whom he wanted his previous teams to sign.
"With Kai Sotto, we've got the blessing of having a young kid who has been put on my doorstep who I was pushing for when I was in Brisbane," Bruton said in a story posted on the National Basketball League (NBL) website.
Bruton, who won six NBL titles as a player and was a mainstay of the Australian national team, previously served as an assistant coach of the Brisbane Bullets.
During his time with the club, Bruton said he had "pushed" for Sotto but his requests were not heeded.
"Everyone let it fall on deaf ears but I said he was coming to someone, and I still remember following Kai from when he was in high school," he noted.
"He ended up back in the Philippines after taking his name out of the G-League elite where he was trying to play before COVID. Then when that fell through, he tried to go back to the G-League and I knew he was going to get snapped up."
Sotto had signed with the 36ers in April, after training with the G-League Ignite program in California for several months. He did not play a single game for Ignite and instead will now turn professional in Australia.
"I wanted the club to jump on him but it never happened. And then when I was in Brisbane still I saw the 36ers snap him up, and I was really disappointed to miss out on working with him," Bruton admitted.
But it all worked out for the best as Bruton signed on to coach the 36ers starting the NBL's 2021-22 season. Already, Bruton is excited to work with Sotto and won't deny that he has high expectations for the 19-year-old.
"He has such a great upside even though I know he's still young," the coach said. "As a kid, there will be some adjustment for him to play against men in the NBL, but I'm so excited by his ability to already make an impact."
Ahead of his stint in Australia, Sotto had played for the Philippine national team in the FIBA Asia Cup qualifiers and showed his improvement since the last time he stepped on the court.
"I can't see why he (Sotto) won't be able to make his mark this season," added Bruton.
The 36ers open their season on December 3 against the debuting Tasmania JackJumpers. Their home opener will be on December 5, when they welcome Bruton's former team, the Bullets, to the Adelaide Entertainment Center.