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    Taane Samuel scored 12 points off the bench for New Zealand.

    IF Taane Samuel looked like he was having fun in New Zealand's 88-63 win over Gilas Pilipinas, it's because he was.

    The Kiwi forward, who played college basketball at La Salle, took it upon himself to ball out in the 2023 Fiba World Cup Asian qualifier in Manila and showed what he really was capable of in front of a packed Big Dome crowd on Sunday.

    "It's huge for me because I didn't really perform to the best of my abilities when I was here," said the beefy former Green Archer "It was kind of like a statement game for me. I just want to showcase what I can do."

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      The 6-foot-7 banger had a largely forgettable run at La Salle back in UAAP Season 81, appearing in only four games and posting averages of 5.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in 13.5 minutes.

      He looked way better on Sunday night.

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      "People didn't really have faith in me when I was here especially playing for La Salle, one of the biggest schools in the Philippines," he lamented.

      New lease on life

      After that season, Samuel chose to go back home and test the waters in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZ NBL), first starring for the Manuwatu Jets before joining the Wellington Saints where he played a pivotal role in the team's 2021 championship run.

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      It also led to this Tall Blacks callup and his best game to date in the seniors team as he posted 12 points, three rebounds, and two assists in this win over the Philippines.

      "This game was big for me. It was so exhilarating for me to play here again," he said.

      And the fact that Samuel did that against his past UAAP foes like Thirdy Ravena and Juan Gomez de Liano as well as his former La Salle captain Kib Montalbo made it all the more special.

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        "I enjoyed it," he said, reflecting on his taste of brief Philippine basketball. "I like how they play here, it's so physical, especially in the UAAP. It's a tough college league to play in especially for me coming from New Zealand.

        "Playing against Thirdy again, playing against Juan again, it's different. It's good to see how far they've come and how much they've flourished on the basketball court."

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        Taane Samuel scored 12 points off the bench for New Zealand.
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