Jong Uichico wants Mo Tautuaa to become a banger

Last year’s top PBA rookie pick Moala Tautuaa is set to complete his first full season as a pro when the league kicks off its season-ending Governors Cup next month.

The wide-bodied Tautuaa has gone back to practicing with TNT after Gilas Pilipinas left last week for its 9-day training camp in Greece.

The 6-foot-6 Tautuaa served more as an insurance just in case something happens to Gilas’ naturalized player Andray Blatche.

TNT coach Jong Uichico said he doesn’t expect an overnight transformation on Tautuaa’s game come the Governors Cup.

The good-natured PBA coach understands that it will take some time for the Fil-Tongan big man to “unlearn” some habits he’s acquired in the past and then learn to play the brand of basketball in the pros.

“Inu-unti-unti lang natin si Mo because he just has to find his niche in the PBA,” Uichico told FOX Sports after the team’s practice at the Moro Lorenzo gym.

The former Chadron State standout 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, seemed average after being selected no. 1 in the draft last year.

But the multi-titled Uichico is convinced that with his size, Tautuaa could easily be a dominant player in the paint. And the TNT mentor knows his job is to make sure his prized rookie slotman could play to his potential.

“We’d really like him to be a rebounder where he gets his points off the rebounds. More like a blue-collar player,” explained the 53-year-old veteran coach.

While media and some Gilas fans saw Tautuaa shoot threes during the national team’s practice the past few weeks, Uichico felt the freshman center simply needs to use his size and athleticism to his advantage at the post.

“It (shooting from the outside) should not be that way because sa PBA, ikaw ang malaki. He’s so big and strong and he’s gifted with that body and he’s also athletic,” reasoned Uichico. “Let the guards shoot from the outside.”

The TNT mentor hopes Tautuaa and whoever would replace original import Jason Maxiell, who exceeded the height limit, could play beautiful music together come the third conference as the Tropa try to redeem themselves from a so-so Commissioner’s Cup campaign. – By Richard Dy

Follow this writer on Twitter: @richava