LONGING to take care of unfinished business, Asi Taulava has once again volunteered to become part of the next Gilas Pilipinas side, saying he can still be an asset as a third-string center to a national team that will do battle in the Fiba Asia championships in China in September.
"I want to go out there and make sure I am ready. But first, allow me to express my availability for the tryouts should coach Tab (Baldwin) feels a need for another big man," Taulava told Spin.ph shortly after helping NLEX beat Blackwater in overtime in the PBA Governors Cup on Friday night.
They Said It!
“I salute you, Asi. You are more Filipino than most natural born Filipinos are. Good Luck." SPIN.ph reader ikingdor
The evergreen center said seeing Korean gunner Lee Sang Min rekindled his desire to play for the national team, pointing out that he has won gold medals in the Southeast Asian Games and Seaba but never in the Asian Games or in the Fiba-Asia championships.
His best chance came in the 2002 Asiad in Busan, when a Philippine side coached by Jong Uichico was denied a finals shot at the gold medal when Lee hit the last-second three-pointer in their semifinal against host South Korea.
"Your story on Lee and its accompanying video reminded me of one unfinished business. I want to win a medal in the Fiba Asia," said the former national center.
Taulava bared that the Philippines have improved a lot in international play and a chance to again 'play for the flag on my chest' is one opportunity he wouldn't want to miss.
"I haven't won a medal (in Fiba-Asia tournaments) yet. I won medals in the Seaba and SEA Games ... And I'm still looking for my first medal and I believe, everything's not too late," he said.
"If they (Gilas) have a need for another big guy, I think I am not yet too old to provide them help," Taulava added.
Asked if he still has what it takes to contribute to the national team at a time when most of his Philippine teammates in 2002 have long retired, Taulava was firm in his reply.
"Too old? I still always compete for the BPC (Best Player of the Conference), remember? I just lost to June Mar (Fajardo) twice," said the 2003 PBA MVP.
"Everybody says my age (is a factor). But I can still make these young guys bleed for their points, and I am still a big problem for them in the paint," he said.
"No matter what role I be given. But I promise you, I can give Gilas some good five to ten minutes a game when June Mar and (Andray) Blatche will need rests. I won't demand anything. I just want to help," he said.
With his new-found self-discipline and determination, the 42-year-old many-time national player declared he is an even better player now than he was during his prime.
"My mindset is a lot better now than I was younger, I wish I was dedicated like this when I was younger," said Taulava, who makes it a point to do plyometrics during his vacant time under top trainer John Aquino.
And looking at the stat sheets, Taulava must really be serious.
His current double-double averages of 13.74 points and 10.09 rebounds per game this season is way better than his
numbers in his last three years with Talk 'N Text before he was traded to Coca Cola Tigers in 2008.
"When I was young I was careless. I don't care. I don't do extra work. I am just not me now. I am 42, but do I play like I am my age?" he said.
"I am like wine. I am old but I get better over the years," said the former PBA MVP.
Taulava bared fighting for the flag is something every Filipino should aspire for.
"Man, it's an honor, best feeling in the world, that's why whenIi played for San miguel in the ABL I was more than driven especially when you have the Philippine flag on your chest," he said.
"I broke my ankle during our Fiba campaign in 2007, but I still wouldn't want to quit. I'd risk my limb and body for the flag and people remember that. It's what our heroes fought for, aside from independence, pride and honor of our land," said Taulava.
"I don't care if I hurt myself. I am all about winning, most especially for our flag," he said.
Taulava's former Air21 mentor Franz Pumaren expressed full support behind the inclusion of Taulava to the national as an 'insurance big man.'
"Asi can be a good addition. Hindi naman siya magiging main slotman mo so he can help. Some five to 10 minutes, Asi can give you quality at that," said Pumaren, the coach who helped Taulava revive a fading PBA career.
"Saka Asi can complement the naturalized player. Blatche has the knack to shoot outside. So Asi can be that reliable rebounder underneath. He can also provide relief for June Mar or Greg Slaughter," he added.
Pumaren said Taulava's age shouldn't be a concern.
"He won't play much minutes. He's just an insurance big man, a ready reliever. Besides, you see how Asi plays up to now. He guards imports taller or his same size. Pero kayang kaya pa rin. Ganyan kailangan natin sa international tournaments," said the Gatordae Hoops Center owner.
"Saka Asi is one big man who is very agile for his height. Sumasabay sa takbuhan 'yan," added Pumaren.