Kai Sotto’s numbers dip in February

Kai Sotto’s recent performances show there’s still plenty of work to be done before the 7-foot-3 teen giant truly becomes a consistent impact player

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino fans were getting excited about the prospect of witnessing Kai Sotto deliver bigger numbers after he had an impressive four-game stretch in January when he averaged 10.5 points and 4.8 rebounds in just 16.8 minutes of playing time per outing.

His February performance, however, left much to be desired and showed there still is plenty of work to be done before the 7-foot-3 teen giant truly becomes a consistent impact player.

After scoring 12 points in each of his last three games in January, Sotto failed to score in double digits in their four games in February. His ballclub, the Adelaide 36ers, picked up just a single victory in February, defeating the Cairns Taipans which is second to the last in the team standings.

Adelaide currently ranks eighth place among 10 teams in the Australian National Basketball League, just a win above the Taipans and the New Zealand Breakers.

Sotto’s numbers dropped in almost all categories in February. He scored just 4.5 points and grabbed 4.25 boards in four games. From an efficient 61% clip from the field the previous month, Sotto normed a 43.75% field goal percentage in February.

It did not help that he saw a decline in his playing time. Coach CJ Bruton played Sotto an average of 17.22 minutes in January. These minutes were expected to go up after the 36ers announced that starting center Isaac Humphries was out for the season.

Sotto, however, was on the court an average of 13.49 minutes in February, a dip of around 3.5 minutes from his January floor time.

For the season, Sotto’s numbers now stand at 6.89 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks per game. At first glance, these may look like pedestrian numbers. But in comparison with the other potential NBA draft picks playing in the NBL, Sotto’s numbers are actually rather decent already.

ESPN’s NBA Draft analyst Jonathan Givony has listed nine prospects, all aged 21 and below, playing in the Australian pro league who could be considered by NBA scouts. Four of these are big men. Seven of the nine youngsters were listed late last year by the ESPN Draft Rankings. Only Sotto and 20-year-old Australian small forward Luke Travers are not in the ESPN’s top 100 draft prospects.

Sotto’s Adelaide teammate Mojave King, a 19-year-old shooting guard ranked 79th by ESPN, is averaging just 2.42 points and 1.08 boards. The highest-ranked prospect, 6-foot-10 French center Ousmane Dieng who is projected by ESPN to be selected 11th overall in the next NBA Draft, is norming just 4.83 points and 2.33 rebounds for the New Zealand Breakers.

Hugo Besson, ranked 30th by ESPN, is the only one on the list scoring in double digits. A teammate of Dieng with the Breakers, the 20-year-old French shooting guard is posting an impressive number of 14.4 points, 4.4 rebounds, and 1.73 assists.

Another promising giant, 20-year-old 6-foot-11 South Sudanese Australian Makur Makur of the Sydney Kings, is producing just 5.4 points and 3.8 rebounds.

There have been reports that a San Antonio Spurs representative and a number of other NBA scouts are in Melbourne to check out 7-foot German-Togolese Ariel Hukporti of the Melbourne United.

The 19-year-old center is the only big man among the list of prospects who is putting up better numbers than Sotto but not by much. Hukporti is scoring 7.13 points and snaring 5 boards for the league-leading Melbourne United.

Sotto, though, has more opportunities this March to get back on track. – Rappler.com

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