ASI Taulava will finally realize his longtime wish on Wednesday: play against the man considered the top center in the PBA today.
For nearly two decades now, the 6-foot-9 Taulava has been yardstick for big man in the pro league until June Mar Fajardo changed the landscape with the great improvements in his game after being made by Petron as the No. 1 overall pick in the rookie draft.
Now the Past meets the Future in the pro league - and Taulava said he can't wait to get it on.
“I have long wanted to face him. I really prepared myself for a challenge like this,” admitted Taulava, now 40 years old but still a force inside the paint for Air21.
Taulava and Fajardo finally get to face each other for the first time when Air21 takes on unbeaten Petron in the first game of a PLDT myDSL-PBA Philippine Cup doubleheader on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The veteran center was playing in the Asean Basketball League (ABL) when Fajardo arrived in the PBA last season. And by time the Fil-Tongan center hooked up with Air21 in the season-ending Governors Cup, the Express had already played the Boosters.
“To be honest, I was looking forward to that match-up, but the chance wasn’t there,” Taulava said.
“And now, I want to prove to them that I can still compete with the younger guys at a higher level,” said Taulava, a fixture in plyometics expert John Aquino’s gym in at Treston College at The Fort.
Asked what his edge is against Fajardo, the outspoken former league MVP replied: “That’s a secret I want everybody to see come game time.”
Taulava, however, said he will be ready for whatever Fajardo and the rest of the Blaze Boosters will bring to the table.
The former Gilas Pilipinas mainstay also takes pride in Air21’s quickness and capability to run the floor for 48 straight minutes.
“That’s how our coaching staff has been training us. We may have veterans in the team but boy, Air21 can outrun almost every team in the league,” he said.
“So I am ready as to how June Mar will face me. If he wanna run, I can. If he wants to go set-up play, I am ready. I just want to prove to them that the boys of the 90’s are still at it,” said Taulava, one of the last few remaining active players in his batch along with Ali Peek, Nic Belasco, Eric Menk, and Danny Seigle.
Taulava, however, believes it will not take long before Fajardo, Ginebra rookie Gregory Slaughter, and the other young new guys take the baton from them.
“Yeah, they’re the future of the league. But for now, they have to pass through us. Same way we were treated when we were new in this league,” he said.