But Hotshots coach Chito Victolero feels they got the import they need in Nikola "Nick" Rakocevic.
Nick Rakocevic the right fit?
“Nick is not a super import,” Victolero admitted after practice on Wednesday. “Hindi siya yung talagang high-scoring import. But decent siya sa lahat. He has an outside shot. Meron din siyang poste. Maayos siya dun sa mga pick-and-roll plays namin, and then he can run.”
“Pinakamaganda lang sa kanya, yung defensive pattern namin, magiging anchor namin siya sa depensa, because he’s quick and he’s long,” he added of the 6-foot-10 big man.
“He’s not a dominating import, but he can dominate the game through his defense.”
The 24-year-old beanpole out of University of Southern California began his pro career in the Chinese Basketball Association where he was once named Defensive Player of the Month.
“I fit right in,” Rakocevic said of the defense-first Hotshots. “That’s kind of my style of play. I play on both ends of the floor. I like to play fast. They like to play fast and they play defense, so that’s kind of my game. It fits perfectly.”
Asked to compare his playing style to an NBA Player, the America-born and raised Serbian big man feels he’s a smaller version of the 7-foof-3 stretch big man Kristaps Porzingis.
“I’m not going to sit outside and shoot threes all the time. I can go out and shoot a couple,” Rakocevic said. “I like to play fast, up and down, sometimes in the post. I can dribble, put the ball on the ground a little bit.”
Rakocevic feels he can also be a playmaker like his namesake - two-time NBA MVP Nikola Jokic.
“I like to pass. He’s bigger than me,” Rakocevic said of Jokic. “I’m skinny. I just try to play with my mind and try to be smarter than other players. I’m not the most athletic guy or the fastest guy. I just try to play smart and play with my teammates.”
“If you play with your teammates, you’re going to get rewarded. If they have my back, I’m going to have their back,” he added.
After falling short in recent conferences, the Hotshots to finally get over the hump in the midseason tournament with a reinforcement that does a little bit of everything.
“I don’t know if I would say I’m the missing piece, but I think that I can help them out a lot,” Rakocevic said. “This is my first year in the Philippines, so I can’t speak about what I don’t know, but I think I can help them out a lot.”
“I think we have a championship team. We have a championship staff. I think we have all the right pieces to win a championship,” he concluded.
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