THERE’s a new shooting big man included in the national team roster vying for a spot in the final 12 of heading to the Asian Games. His face looks familiar, but the latest arsenal in his game seems strange for people who has seen him play for about 20 years in the PBA.
Meet 45-year-old Asi Taulava.
“He has a new weapon, which is the three-point shot and he could be a big help for us,” Guiao told FOX Sports Philippines. “Ang sabi ko nga, kung na-develop agad ito ni Asi five years ago, baka talunin pa nito si (Robert) Jaworski sa retirement age ng paglalaro.”
Taulava has developed the confidence and ability to shoot the outside shot while playing in an invitational tournament in Macau and Guiao was able to take notice.
For Taulava, it was like an eye opener.
“I found my niche there,” added Taulava. “I played on the perimeter more. Instead of becoming a post up player. I was surprised that sometimes I felt I’m taking a bad shot, but Coach Yeng always encourages me that it was a good shot. He’s given me the license to shoot if I’m confident enough to knock those treys. Lucky for me, I’ve been knocking them down.”
Known as a player who normally powers his way inside, Taulava believes it’s never too late to evolve his game and in doing so, he had to get some tips from different people — most notably his old friend Jimmy Alapag, the long-time team captain of Gilas Pilipinas who also retired in the PBA as the all-time leader in three-point shots made.
“I talked to Jimmy. He helped me in the follow through. Then, I have Coach Sandy (Arespacochaga) in the morning. Coach Sandy was my big man coach and now my shooting coach. Their time really paid off. Jimmy is such a great shooter and the pointers he gave me when we were in Macau, how to hold my form and keep your elbow up above your head, I became braver and braver shooting the ball,” added Taulava.
Taulava had an impressive showing in the invitational tournament and Guiao believes the 6-foot-9 big man can be an asset to the Rain or Shine-backed national squad competing in the coming Jakarta Asian Games.
“When I saw him in Macau in a different setting from the PBA, and then this opportunity (national team) comes up, I told myself that he could be a big help. There are a lot of seven-footers out there, a lot of big bodies and if only for five, six minutes a game he can relieve the other guys and make that contribution, that’s good for us,” added Guiao.
The only player to win the MVP both in the PBA and the ABL, Taulava will be making history by becoming the oldest player to play in the Asiad, but for Taulava, getting recalled to serve the national team was simply “incredible.”
Taulava will be one among the big men in the roster competing for the final 12 along with Christian Standhardinger of the San Miguel Beermen, Poy Erram of the Blackwater Elite, and Beau Belga and Raymond Almazan of the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters.
“I guess I did something great. The eye opener was probably when we played in the Macau tournament. He (Coach Yeng Guiao) saw that fire on me that we can do it again, especially when competing against China and Korea, and some of those guys who will be playing on their national teams,” said Taulava.