FILIPINO-TONGAN big man Moala Tautuaa has vowed to get bigger and stronger as he prepares to make the move to the PBA.
Tautuaa is set to begin his second season with the Westports Malaysia Dragons in the Asean Basketball League under Filipino coach Ariel Vanguardia this month, with an eye on joining the PBA D-League rookie draft in September to pave the way for his jump to the pro league.
On Sunday, the 6-foot-5 Tautuaa gave Filipino fans a glimpse of what to expect from him, scoring 10 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the Dragons' 81-85 loss to Gilas Pilipinas in a tune-up game at the Meralco gym.
Two of those baskets came off two highlight reel, two-handed dunks before fouling out late in the game.
“My passion burns on the surface. I just like playing. It’s a fun game and we’re (Dragons) a new team getting together. We’re still learning each other, but slowly, little by little, we’ll start molding,” Tautuaa told Spin.ph after the game.
Making the game more special was that Tautuaa played before members of his family, including dad Moala Sr., mother Romanita, who hails from Taguig, and maternal grandfather Santiago Del Valle.
The 25-year-old, who was born in San Francisco, California, said he will try to his best to help the Dragons win the ABL title this season while preparing for his other goal, which is to improve his game for his shift to the PBA.
“That’s why I’m protecting myself, strengthening my body and make sure I can perform at a high level and give the people what they want when I play (in the D-League),” added Tautuaa, who averaged 9.8 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.1 assists for the Dragons last season.
The plan for Tautuaa is to complete a season in the D-League to make him eligible for the 2015 draft in the PBA, where he can be the next Fil-Tongan player after Asi Taulava.
The former Chadron State standout was the lone holdover among the Asean imports for this season in the Dragons’ roster.
His former teammate, high-leaping Fil-Am guard Justin Melton, has left to join the PBA draft last year and is now playing for the San Mig Super Coffee Mixers.