THAT bosom buddy Eric Menk finally flashed his old brilliant form after a long while no longer came as a surprise for Asi Taulava.
Menk proved to be a key player in Alaska’s 82-78 win over Taulava and the NLEX Road Warriors that enabled the Aces to go deep in the PBA Philippine Cup playoffs on Thursday night.
The former league MVP had eight points and six rebounds, while holding Taulava to just 10 points in a 'Throwback Thursday' match-up that brought back memories of their epic rivalry in the past.
Menk’s vintage performance didn’t shock Taulava, who has battled the 6-foot-7 Menk dating back to their heydays in the defunct Philippine Basketball League (PBL).
“It’s all dedication,” said the 41-year-old Taulava about his 40-year-old former teammate with San Miguel in the Asean Basketball League (ABL). “Eric does the same thing as I do. He does cross fit. He’s always in shape.”
Taulava said the resurgence of Menk’s career boiled down to the former Lake Superior State standout being given playing time at Alaska by coach Alex Compton.
“He’s just not given an opportunity to play. The trust of coach Alex, it’s paying dividends,” said Taulava, also a former MVP.
“Nobody really gave him the benefit of the doubt. They think once we are old, we belong at the end of the bench, or part of the coaching staff. But that comes with trust and you have to credit the coaching staff of Alaska.
“I’m happy for him because he is my batch mate and my former teammate,” said Taulava.
Aside from Menk, Compton also gave credit to the entire Alaska frontcourt for defending well the 6-foot-11 Taulava, who is capable of pouring in the points inside for the Road Warriors.
“Special mention to Sonny (Thoss), Eric, and Sam (Emman) who had the unfortunate task of guarding Asi. They did a good job. We won because of our defense,” said the American coach.
Taulava said it was fun playing against Menk along with Alaska rookie Chris Banchero, also a former San Miguel Beer teammate.
At one point of the game, Taulava and Banchero even battled for the ball to force a jumpball.
“I said, ‘Hey, pretty boy. What are you doing here? You should be shooting a movie,’” said Taulava about the sequence with Banchero. “But it was great competition with Eric and Chris. It’s great basketball always.”