KAI Sotto definitely put a smile on Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes' face.
Responding soundly to the coaching staff's challenge after largely being outplayed by his Jordanian counterparts led by Ahmad Al Dwairi, the Adelaide 36ers center showed immense maturity in leading the Philippines to a 74-66 victory on Friday in the 2023 Fiba World Cup Asian qualifiers.
Taken out in the first half after giving up a pair of offensive boards, Reyes instructed assistant coach Tim Cone to explain the substitution to Sotto.
Chot on guiding Kai Sotto
"I think that’s the value of having good assistants when we took Kai off the game. I specifically told coach Tim talk to him to be able to tell exactly why he was being taken out and what we’re looking from him," he said.
"When we reinserted him and then he had a turnover, we took him out again just to be able to deliver that point. And that was a crucial moment because Kai could have just gone into a funk and just lost interest in the second half."
As good the 20-year-old is, it showed that he still needs guidance from his coaches from time-to-time.
The good thing, too, is that the criticism was taken all too well that Sotto went on and anchored Gilas' defense in the third quarter en route to finishing with 16 points, seven rebounds, two assists, and two blocks.
"To his credit no, he came out and we shifted the match ups a little bit and Kai dominated. He got five defensive rebounds and then he scored, and his presence on defense, that’s what we need from him," Reyes said of Sotto.
Sotto, for his part, is just happy that the Philippines got the job done.
"We just had fun. It was just selfless basketball. No one really cared who scored," he said.