For the last 16 years, Asi Taulava has been a loyal soldier to the country.
The 6-foot-9 Filipino-Tongan made his National Team debut back in 2002 for the Asian Games in Busan. Since then, he became the go-to big man of choice for the Philippines.
However, after the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, he no longer received a call-up from the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas. Big men like June Mar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, and Christian Standhardinger started to rise among the ranks.
But father time has yet to pass the now-45 year old.
Last Friday, Gilas Pilipinas head coach Yeng Guiao enlisted Taulava once again. This time, for the 2018 Asian Games – Taulava’s third Asiad.
“Let’s be realistic, guys my age are retired, hanging around, having a barbecue, having a couple of beers but here I am now, still practicing with the young guys. Very grateful, very blessed to be here enjoying the moment now,” the 20-year vet expressed.
Since last Tuesday, the eldest statesman of the team quickly formed a bond with his new teammates. But one player that the 6-foot-9 big man has become close to is 6-foot-8 Filipino-German Christian Standhardinger.
The two can be seen kidding around during practices and even going on shooting drills afterwards.
Taulava is impressed with the 29-year-old big man’s dedication to the national team program. Come the Asian Games, Standhardinger will be donning the Pilipinas jersey for the fifth time in a year.
“That’s what you want to see from the younger generation. During my time, back in 2002, everybody in the PBA was hoping to be called for the National Team. Now, some of the younger guys are taking it for granted, saying that it’s just the national team,” rued Taulava.
“But you got to remember, when we play, the whole country stops. And maybe it’s just one or two weeks but in the long run, it makes the Philippine look great.”
Come the Asian Games, it’s not just Standhardinger whom Taulava will try to help out, as he is planning to stick with the team’s floor generals. And he is doing this to make their lives easier once they step onto the floor in Indonesia.
“The whole group is close. We are trying to partner up with guards as our roommates ’cause you know, that’s how we learn. I don’t want to be hanging around my fellow big men because that’s my position and I know how he thinks,” expressed the 2003 PBA Most Valuable Player. “If I stay with a guard, I’ll know what he thinks and where he wants me on the floor. It’s about making his and my job easier.
“As far as the whole 12, we get along really well. “