While majority of the PBA players took the time to rest during the long conference break, rookie big man Moala Tautuaa cut short his vacation to serve as an added warm body in the ongoing Gilas Pilipinas practice.
But the Tropang TNT freshman isn’t complaining.
In fact, he doesn’t see his inclusion in the Gilas pool as a sacrifice at all, knowing that he’s doing something that’s far bigger than himself.
“I love my job and I love playing basketball so why shouldn’t I be out here? They (Gilas pool) just needed more bodies to help practice run a little more smooth,” Tautuaa said in a chat with FOX Sports.
The 6-foot-8 Tautuaa posted 9.96 points, 4.27 rebounds and 1.27 assists in 18.85 minutes with Tropang TNT this season — numbers that for a lot of people, seem average considering that the Fil-Tongan emerged as last year’s top rookie pick.
But Tautuaa had one goal since the Gilas pool returned to practice over 2 weeks ago.
He enjoyed guarding different players in the Gilas training, including naturalized big man Andray Blatche.
“I feel I’m getting a lot more work by guarding different players so I look at it as some kind of an advantage for myself,” he said.
“It’s a sacrifice but I don’t see it as that but more of helping the team and being part of something outside of myself, something bigger than myself,” added the 27-year-old former Chadron State standout.
As for Blatche, Tautuaa is grateful to have another chance to reconnect with the former Brooklyn Nets slotman.
The TNT rookie big man said he liked picking the brain of Blatche, saying the naturalized player’s NBA experience helped him learn new tricks in the game.
“It’s fun. I like hanging around with Dray, and the good vibe we all get along just like last time,” he said, recalling the bonding he had with Blatche and Gilas 3.0 in last year’s William Jones Cup in Taiwan.
“It’s just raising my IQ, learning different things, like little things here and there and pick up from the way I move, to the way I shoot,” added Tautuaa.
Tautuaa knows he’s a mere backup just in case something happens to Blatche before the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament this July.
But he would rather remain as just that, a backup, knowing that the country’s Olympic hopes are at stake when Gilas competes in the qualifying tournament. – By Richard Dy
Follow this writer on Twitter: @richava