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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Hot hand

By Dayton Morinaga
Advertiser Staff Writer

As an avid poker fan, Jake Sottos knows about being patient and waiting for the right time to go "all in."

It's no mistake University of Hawai'i guard Jake Sottos wears No. 3. He leads the team with 25 3-pointers.

Illustration by John Valles • The Honolulu Advertiser


POSITION: Shooting guard

KEY STATISTICS: Leads team with 25 3-pointers and 47.2 percentage from 3-point range

RECENT RUN: Made 17 3-pointers and is averaging 17.5 points in his past four games


17 points vs. SMU

20 vs. LaTech

20 at UTEP

13 at Boise State

In his second season as a patient member of the University of Hawai'i men's basketball team, Sottos finally went all in with the hot hand two weeks ago.

As a result, the 6-foot-4 senior guard has worked his way into the starting lineup for the Rainbow Warriors, thanks mostly to his prolific 3-point shooting.

He is expected to make the second start of his Hawai'i career tomorrow when the 'Bows host Rice at the Stan Sheriff Center.

"There were times last year, and even this year, when I was feeling down on myself," Sottos said. "So, in a way, I feel justified now — like all my work is finally paying off."

Until four games ago, Sottos was a seldom-used reserve player. But in his last four games, he has made 17 3-pointers and averaged 17.5 points per game.

Put it this way: Sottos has scored 70 points in his last four games. In his previous 28 games at Hawai'i, he had 71 total points.

Hawai'i head coach Riley Wallace said Sottos' recent streak did not exactly come by design. Wallace said that Sottos was kept on the bench for most of the past two seasons because of his defensive flaws.

"The coach had a lot to do with it," Wallace admitted. "He's not an aggressive player — he's not a good rebounder and not a good defender — and our style is to be aggressive."

But with several other 'Bows struggling in recent weeks, Sottos found his shot. It started with a 17-point performance against Southern Methodist, and then a 20-point showing against Louisiana Tech.

His best game came on the road last week when he set a UH record by going 6 for 6 from 3-point range while scoring 20 points in a loss at Texas-El Paso.

"When a player's hot like that, you stick with him," Wallace said. "So that's what we're doing."

Sottos said: "Coach has explained to me before that defense is my problem, and I give him that. It's always been a weakness for me. But I'll try to help the team any way I can."

Sottos sustained strained ligaments on the bottom of his right foot in the UTEP game, but he said it won't be enough to keep him out.

"Now that I got the job, I'm going to do what ever I can to keep it," he said.

Because of his recent streak, Sottos now leads the team with 25 3-pointers and a 47.2 percentage from long range. The Hawai'i record for best 3-point percentage in a season is Bert Woodard's 47.9 percent in the 1991-92 season.

"Confidence is such a big thing for a shooter," Sottos said. "The mechanics will always be there, so once you get that confidence, you feel like every shot you put up is going in."

Sottos, who shoots left-handed, is often called "Slinger" by his teammates.

"He's the best shooter I ever played with or against," senior Jeff Blackett said. "I would put him up against anybody in the country. I know there are a lot of good ones out there, but when Jake gets hot, he's unbelievable."

University of Hawai'i guard Jake Sottos has scored 70 points in his past four games. In his previous 28 games at UH, he had 71 points.

Advertiser library photo • Dec. 23, 2004

He's been that way for a while. Sottos was a natural-born shooter, according to his father, Andy Sottos.

"I like to tell people he came out of the womb shooting," Andy said. "When he was maybe 4, we bought him one of those little toy hoops and he could make it from across the room. He was beating me by that time already."

Andy Sottos, by the way, once played NCAA Division I basketball under Eddie Sutton at Creighton.

"I was more of an inside scorer," said Andy, who is 6-3. "If I could shoot like Jake, maybe I'd have made it big."

Jake Sottos is still considered big in his hometown of Monmouth, Ill., which has a population of around 11,000. He set several scoring records at Monmouth High, and was a two-time all-state selection.

The local newspaper, the Monmouth Daily Review Atlas, runs weekly updates on Hawai'i basketball because of Sottos.

"Jake is probably the first from that town to make it to a Division I school," his father said. "So they follow him pretty close."

In turn, Sottos has remained loyal to his hometown and the nearby baseball team, the Chicago Cubs.

Wallace is a St. Louis Cardinals fan. During a practice in October just after the Cardinals made the World Series, Wallace asked all his players to cheer for the Cardinals.

Sottos refused and wound up running extra sprints.


WHO: Hawai'i (10-5 overall, 2-5 WAC) vs. Rice (10-5, 5-2)

WHERE: Stan Sheriff Center

WHEN: Tomorrow, 7:05 p.m. start

TICKETS: $20 for lower level seats, $15 for upper level adult seats, $5 for upper level student seats, $3 for upper level student seats, $5 for Super Rooter and Manoa Maniac seats. Parking is $3.

TV/Radio: Live on KFVE (Ch. 5) and KKEA (1420 AM)

"I'll never give in to being a Cardinals fan," he said. "I'll run again if I have to."

It is that kind of spirit that has also made Sottos one of the most popular players on the team.

As Wallace put it: "Everybody on the team gets along. But Jake is the guy that everybody on the team likes."

Hawai'i associate coach Jackson Wheeler recruited Sottos out of Southeastern Community College (Iowa) in 2003. As a sophomore, Sottos set a school record with 127 3-pointers and was the leading scorer on the team that won the junior college national championship.

"He's scored everywhere he's been," Wheeler said. "So what he's doing now is not exactly a surprise. He just kind of had to be patient and wait his turn."

Sottos became so good at shooting 3-pointers in junior college, he changed his jersey number from 15 to 3, which he still wears as a Rainbow Warrior.

He is also identifiable on the court as the player with the socks pulled up to his knees. He said that is a tribute to his family because his sisters told him to wear the socks that way.

"I'm close with my family; I grew up playing basketball all day with my brother," said Sottos, who is the oldest of four siblings.

But he also grew up playing golf. He carries a 5 handicap despite not playing during basketball seasons.

"I play a lot during the summer," said Sottos, who beat several NCAA Division I players to win an amateur tournament in Illinois two years ago.

In addition to golfing, he plans to complete his sociology degree at UH by the end of 2006.

"We're all going to be sad once Jake's time is up in Hawai'i," his father said. "He's making a lot of us proud."

Reach Dayton Morinaga at dmorinaga@honoluluadvertiser.com or 535-8101.