Former national team star Asi Taulava feels a great sense of pride as Gilas Pilipinas makes mark on world stage
Asi Taulava, a member of the national team to the 2007 and 2009 Fiba Asia tournaments, credits both players and officials for Philippine basketball's rise. Jerome Ascano

ASI Taulava is feeling a great sense of pride as Gilas Pilipinas valiantly fights in the Fiba World Cup.

The Fil-Tongan big man Taulava is mighty pleased to see the nationals, several of them his former teammates in the Philippine teams that saw action in the 2007 and 2009 Fiba Asia men’s championships, put the country back on the world stage.

Taulava, who played for the national team in the Tokushima, Japan and Tianjin, China editions of the Fiba Asia joust, said the Philippines’ return to basketball’s biggest stage is a fruit of unity that basketball leaders have had since 2007.

“If there’s one guy, anybody who’ll say something negative against Gilas, I think I’ll be the first guy to wrap my arm around that guy and say, ‘Hey buddy, you don’t know how far we’ve come’ because over the past 15, 16 years, to see Philippine basketball rise from down there the gutter and all the problems we had with SBP (Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas) and BAP (Basketball Association of the Philippines), and now we only have one organization, that’s SBP and how far we’ve gone and then just to be back in the world stage after 40 years of absence, it’s just an unbelievable feeling, that’s something we all should be proud of,” Taulava said.

The 6-foot-9 Fil-Tongan said the country’s return to the world championships is a step towards the right direction, considering that there are many up and coming young talent, who are ready to become the next face of Gilas Pilipinas.

“I hope from hereon, the program grows, especially with all the younger guys coming in to the pro ranks and coming from college. They are the ones who’ll carry the torch and carry it to the next level,” said Taulava.

“Hopefully, we get the opportunity to go from here from the World Cup, to qualify to the Olympics because that’s the goal of any athlete, that’s all we want,” he said.

“We just want our country to do good in sports, enough of politics because everybody just needs to show full support to boss MVP (Manny V. Panglinan, the SBP president) or whoever will be the next leader of SBP to help us along the way,” added the 41-year-old NLEX slotman nicknamed, the “Rock”.

With their confidence buoyed by their strong performance against the mighty Croatians, Taulava believes the Filipinos have a strong chance of against other countries in their bracket.


“After seeing that they  (Filipinos) can perform with the best teams, and this (Croatian team) was supposed to be the heavy favorite to win the bracket. If they play this way against Croatia, I think I like our opportunity against all other teams,” noted Taulava, who was recently named the PBA Press Corps. Comeback Player of the Year, while earning a spot in the pro league’s Mythical First team last season.

“We just need to stay focused and stick to the game plan. And what we need to do as a country is support them and pray for them.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @richava