ASI Taulava has never once turned his back on playing for flag and country.
Now he wants to see Christian Standhardinger embrace the same opportunity.
“A lot of us, other players want to play for the national team but they don’t get the opportunity. The opportunity that he has now to put on the national team colors is great,” said Taulava after his NLEX side lost by a point to Standhardinger and Gilas Pilipinas in a tune-game on Wednesday.
“So him, right now representing the country, he’s got to put the country first. He has to continue growing. He’s a good guy. He has coach Chot (Reyes), Jimmy (Alapag), he’s heading in the right direction,” Taulava added.
Taulava, 43, came away impressed after his first game against the 6-8 Fil-German, who scored the final five points for Gilas to complete a comeback from 25-points down against the Road Warriors, 113-112, in his first competitive game in a Philippine uniform.
What caught Taulava’s eye was the quickness and athleticism of the former NCAA Division 1 player, who got by the NLEX veteran with his ability to put the ball on the floor and play above the rim.
“The guy is mobile, he’s good. He just has to continue working hard and getting better. You know, the path he’s on right now is bigger than the PBA. Playing for the national team, it’s always an honor.”
It’s not only Standhardinger who impressed Taulava.
The young core of this Gilas team bound for the Jones Cup and the Southeast Asian Games, led by PBA rookies like Jio Jalalon and amateur stars like Kobe Paras and Kiefer Ravena, got a passing grade from their “Kuya” Asi with the way they pushed the ball and boundless energy.
“These guys are young. The pace, the speed out there was unbelievable," said Taulava, who last played for Gilas in the 2015 Fiba Asia championships in China.
"The import’s still feeling his way around. Seeing Kief, Kobe, am happy to see them back and representing the country, that’s a good thing. Ray Parks is here, even all the younger guys, (Carl Bryan) Cruz, the shooter and then you have (Mac) Belo, the next Ranidel (De Ocampo).
"All the hard work is gonna pay off for them in the future.”
This early, Taulava is seeing great chemistry from the players put together by Chot Reyes for the Jones Cup and SEA Games missions.
“You can see the chemistry among the guys and they get along really well before they go into this journey. They’re gonna spend two weeks together, that’s what we’re preparing for, the SEA Games.”