DESPITE an fight between him and Asi Taulava in the past, big man Kwaan Yoong Jing of the Malaysian national team said he still holds the ageless PBA player in high regard.
The 24-year-old Kwaan said he is aware Taulava remains an active player in the PBA despite his advanced age of 42. More so, he’s amazed at how the 6-foot-9 NLEX center has kept himself competitive in the league 16 years after turning pro in 1999.
“Yeah, I know he (Taulava) is still playing,” Kwaan related to Spin.ph on Wednesday.
“I think he (got) the ABL (Asean Basketball League) MVP,” referring to Taulava’s achievement of winning the highest individual award in the regional league during the 2013 season.
Kwaan and the Malaysian team currently in the country to play tune-up games with local ballclubs as part of their preparation for the 2015 Southeast Asian Games next month. On Wednesday, the Malaysians played Cebuana Lhuillier at the Acropolis gym.
Kwaan and Taulava are no strangers to each other. They last crossed paths in the 2011 William Jones Cup, with Taulava then reinforcing the original Gilas Pilipinas squad as one of several PBA players tapped to play for the team.
Kwaan and Taulava went at each other during the Gilas-Malaysia match after the hulking Fil-Tongan threw a punch at the Kwaan, who Taulava claimed hit him in the groin area prior to the incident.
Kwaan refused to look back at the ugly episode and instead reiterated his high regard for Taulava.
“I respect and salute him. He can still play,” Kwaan said.
Despite Malaysia finishing runner up in the recent Southeast Asian Basketball Association (Seaba) Championship to qualify for this year’s Fiba-Asia Championship, Kwaan said there’s still a lot of work to be done since most of the players in the squad are new.
“It’s a young team. Some of the new players were replaced by the old players. We need some time,” said Kwaan, one of the senior members of the team, having been with the national squad for seven years now.
Kwaan didn’t suit up in the team’s loss to Cebuana Lhuillier in their tune-up match as he is still recovering from an injury. But he did admit the loss to the Gems is proof the Malaysians are still a work in progress.
“I feel that they are more physical and stronger than the Malaysian team,” said Kwaan of the Cebuana Lhuillier Gems. “They have size and our players are too skinny.”