KAI Sotto knows he has a lot to improve on in his game as he chases the NBA dream.
And he feels fortunate that a former NBA player in Chuck Person took him under his wing as the Filipino center trained at The Skill Factory in Atlanta.
"Nung first weeks na nag-train ako with coach Chuck, sobrang excited ko kasi yun nga, 'The Rifleman.' So alam kong tuturuan niya ako mag-improve sa shooting," he said.
Person, 55, was the 1987 NBA Rookie of the Year during his time at Indiana. He was recently involved in a US college bribery scandal but was spared prison time.
He is considered one of his time's finest three-point shooters, as seen in his 14-year NBA career that also took him to the Minnesota Timberwolves, San Antonio Spurs, Charlotte Hornets, and Seattle Supersonics.
Sotto worked on his shooting in his final year in Ateneo before taking it to the international stage with Gilas Pilipinas Youth. He thought all along Person would just fine-tune it.
He was wrong.
Person dissected Sotto's form and took him back to basics, reconstructing it as he first focused on the 7-foot-2 wunderkind's footwork.
"Nagkamali ako kasi first two weeks ko, walang kahit anong shots. Puro dribbling lang, puro footwork," said the 18-year-old Sotto in a special online conference after declaring his commitment to the NBA G League select team.
"Lagi niyang sinasabi na bago kita turuan paano tumira, tuturuan muna kitang i-set yung paa mo para maging comfortable bago tumira. Hinanda niya muna ako maging ready sa shot ko."
Sotto absorbed all those lessons like a sponge, and it didn't take long before the shots started to fall more consistently.
With Person guiding him, Sotto gained a lot of confidence with his shot, an added arsenal to his already improved post game.
Person even went to as far as trying to extend Sotto's range, pushing him farther from the three-point arc just to gauge his capabilities.
"Yung mga first months na nagte-training kami, pinapatira niya ako sa malayo. Sabi ko sa kanya, hindi naman ako si Steph Curry para shumoot ng ganyan. Yun pala, tinitignan niya lang yung range ko at yung kapasidad ng mga shots ko," he said.
"Tinulungan niya lang ako paano maging ready sa shot ko at maging confident. Actually, he gave me a lot of confidence to trust my shot."
The results speak for itself as Sotto brought that improved three-point game as he competed with The Skill Factory (TSF) in a number of tournaments.
"After ng trainings namin, simula nung naglaro ako sa TSF, dinala ko lang sa laro ko yun and sa tingin ko naman, maganda ang naging effect," he said.