Adelaide 36ers coach CJ Bruton is making sure Kai Sotto will be all set and injury-free when Australia's National Basketball League (NBL) season officially kicks of in early December.
This is the reason he has decided to sit out the 7-foot-1 Filipino for the rest of the NBL preseason games.
"Right now, I don't think we'll be seeing him anymore between now and our first game," Bruton said Thursday in an online press conference together with Sotto.
"It's more of just managing him and making sure that he's healthy and able to do everything and get across the line of ticking all the boxes that we want every player on our roster to do."
Sotto played one game for Adelaide in the NBL Blitz, tallying seven points, five rebounds, and a block in their victory over Cairns.
All in all, Bruton is happy with the improvements Sotto has made with his game.
"Right now, it's Kai being the best player he can be at this point in time. And he continues to work on his body and his skills and understanding our system. He's definitely adapted very well from my time of arriving at Adelaide," he said.
Bruton also said Sotto has shown what he can contribute given the level of athleticism he currently has.
"His movement is agile, he can play multiple positions. The way the game is today, Kai was able to show he can stretch the floor, play inside and out. He doesn't have to sit there and bang against the bigger bodies, which he showed a lot in different times here in Australia," he said.
Sotto, for his part, said he is just happy to contribute in any way he can to the 36ers.
"What's best for me is to help my team in the games, help them win the championship. That's the biggest success for me," he said.
Sotto is currently in Tasmania training and playing with the 36ers during the NBL Blitz. He was previously a member of the NBA G-League Ignite Team and was based in Florida, where he worked out with former NBA players.
Sotto is also a key figure in the Filipino national team, having represented the country since the Under-16 level.
Whether of not Sotto can join Gilas Pilipinas in the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian qualifiers this February is something Bruton has yet to discuss with the 19-year-old Filipino.
"That's something I haven't discussed with... normally when we're in season, Australia's not competing at this point in time as other parts of the world. That's a question that needs to be asked to," he said.
What is clear though is that Sotto has been putting in the work and showing steady improvement.
Bruton said he is there to guide the budding Pinoy big.
"What I have is to help this young man grow to becoming the best possible player he can become. With that it takes time and what he's been doing is amazing... It's just the starting point, he's going to show bigger, better things. Right now it's baby steps, keep improving everyday. Continue to work on his body as he has been doing," he said.
Tap Digital Media Ventures (DMV), which acquired the rights to broadcast NBL in the Philippines, is proud to see Sotto strutting his wares in Australia.
"In the past two years, we have been following Kai's journey from local basketball, being uprooted to play and train abroad and to really make it to the international scene," said Rely San Agustin, Tap's chief marketing officer.
"He's oUr best bet right now and we're all praying that he actually fulfills that NBA dream for us. Right now him playing for the NBL is quite a dream come true."
Tap DMV will be airing the matches of Sotto when he suits up for 36ers this 2021-22 season.