ASI Taulava and Jimmy Alapag played together for four solid years and once formed the dreaded Mutt and Jeff duo of Talk `N Text.
It’s no wonder then that when the 40-year-old veteran teamed up with Chris Banchero at San Miguel, he immediately saw another Alapag in the making.
“He (Banchero) reminds me so much of Jimmy Alapag,” said Taulava unabashedly as Banchero sat next to him in the presidential table during Tuesday’s PSA Forum at Shakey’s Malate.
“He’s young, kinda raw talent just like when I first played with Jimmy (in the PBA).”
Like Alapag with whom he won his first PBA championship during the 2003 All-Filipino conference, Taulava also collaborated with Banchero in steering the Beermen to their breakthrough Asean Basketball League title last week following a three-game sweep of the Indonesia Warriors in the Finals.
And during the best-of-five title series, Taulava saw how the 6-foot-1 Banchero blossomed into a fine point guard that he can’t help but be reminded of a young Alapag a decade earlier.
“In this Finals, I saw him become more mature, become more patient. We actually became good friends during the series,” said the reigning ABL MVP, who incidentally, also bagged his first and only PBA MVP award during the time when the Tropang Texters ran away with the All-Filipino crown.
Taulava also credited Banchero for helping him and the other new players in San Miguel’s roster to fit quickly into the Beermen’s system at the start of the season, the Fil-Italian point guard being among the holdovers from the previous team that finished runner-up behind the Warriors.
But at the same time, he and fellow veteran Eric Menk had to constantly remind Banchero to just settle down and play the game as it is.
“He’s kind of playing a razzle-dazzle game, so we always try to compose him,” he said.
A tendon tear in his left quadriceps eventually forced Banchero to be out of action for three weeks, giving him the chance to see how the other veteran San Miguel players run the team.
“Pao (Hubalde) and Jeric Fortuna, who may not have played in the PBA yet but is already a veteran of many championships, did good in holding the team together when Chris was out. That sort of help him settle down and play a more controlled game,” said Taulava.
And that was obvious in the title series as Banchero played a key role in the Beermen’s title romp and was eventually named Finals MVP.
“Chris definitely has got a bright future ahead of him,” said Taulava.
At the moment, the 6-foot-9 center stressed Banchero may not be in the same league as Alapag.
Not yet anyway.
“It’s hard to compare them yet. You know Jimmy is a very smart player, who’s got a very good shooting ability,” he said.
“As for Chris, he’s a lot bigger, and is starting to mature with his game. And I know he’ll get to improve on that three-point shooting of his and become a lot more like Jimmy. “
Definitely in time.