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Friday, October 24, 2014

Will Asi Taulava Reconsider His Retirement from the National Team?

At 41 years old, 6'9" man-mountain 6'9" Pauliasi Taulava is having a resurgence in his PBA basketball career. To everyone's surprise last season, he made the PBA Mythical First Team and finishing a strong second behind up-and-coming big man Junemar Fajardo in the Most Valuable Player race.

The man they call "The Rock" averaged 14.75 points, 12.38 rebounds, and 2.02 assists per game for Air 21 in the 2013-2014 Philippine Basketball Association season while logging 37.73 minutes in 40 games. He shot 46.9 % from the field.



As the 2014-2015 PBA season opened, Taulava was again at the forefront of the campaign of NLEX, who bought the Air 21 franchise. On opening day, before 52,000 fans at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan, Asi Taulava led NLEX with 21 points, 8 rebounds, and 5 assists as the Road Warriors nipped Globalport, 101-96. He was only 4 of 11(36.4%) from the field but made 13 of his 17 free throw attempts(76.5%).

In a 103-81 losing effort to NLEX sister team Talk n'Text, Taulava logged 12 points and 13 boards but committed 7 turnovers. He made 4 of 7 attempts(57.1%) and 4 of 7 foul shots(57.1%). Two games into the new season, he is averaging 16.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.5 assists logging 27 minutes per game while shooting 44.4% from the field and 70.8% from the line.

Despite the arrival of young and promising big men in the league, Asi Taulava can still hold his own against the best of them. He was among the PBA's best last season as indicated by the inclusion in the Mythical First Team and the strong second place finish in the MVP race. After a short break from the PBA in 2012-2013 when he helped the San Miguel Beermen win the ASEAN Basketball League title, Asi is driven to prove he still belongs in the PBA and is showing everyone that he is still among the league's elite stars. He is still a rare breed of dominant big men in Philippine basketball.

We all know that in international competition, the Philippines is always at a shortage of quality big men. Currently, we do have Marcus Douthit, Andray Blatche, Junemar Fajardo, Japeth Aguilar, and Greg Slaughter who may man the inside for the Gilas quintet in international competitions. Marcus Douthit is a good fit but his skills are slowly fading and has shown some attitude issues in recent memory. Dray Blatche brings a lot to the team, but full time commitment might again be a question. Junemar is improving by leaps and bounds which is a good thing but he is far from being a complete player. To many, Japeth is still a disappointment despite his off-the-roof athleticism. Greg Slaughter is huge but is largely untested in international competition.

This begs us to ask the question: Will Asi Taulava consider coming out of retirement from national team duties? The Philippine five could use another wide body in the national pool. Asi can push any of the bigs in practice. He can mentor the younger big men but specially Junmar, Japeth, and Greg. He brings valuable international experience into the pool. And more importantly, we know him to be a fierce competitor who loved playing for flag and country. I'd like to see him back in a Pilipinas uniform! Do you?



photo from interaksyon.com

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