FOES turn to friends for now as Moala Tautuaa and Troy Rosario team up for the national team that’s preparing for the Fiba Asia Men’s Championship in China next month.
The amateur standouts are vying for the top pick in the coming Gatorade PBA Draft on August 23, but the competition between them takes a backseat in the meantime as they provide whatever help they can to a Gilas Pilipinas side that has been hit by players’ withdrawal and injuries.
Tautuaa will serve as an extra warm body and backup to naturalized player Andray Blatche, while Rosario is the only non-PBA homegrown player in the pool fighting for a spot in Gilas’ final lineup.
Both are consensus first-round picks in the Rookie Draft, a lock for either the No. 1 or No.2 selections.
“He’s just another player out there,” said Tautuaa of Rosario as the Fil-Tongan joined the nationals in practice on Thursday night. “I don’t see him as my competition, because we wear the same jersey this time.”
“Even with a different jersey, we’re still passionate,” added the Cebuana Lhuillier slotman, who battled Rosario of Hapee in the D-League Foundation Cup semifinals. “I play basketball because I’m passionate about it. He’s my opponent and I’m his and it’s just a game at the end of the day.”
“Right now, we’re on the same team,” he continued. “We’re in this together to better the team.”
Rosario echoed Tautuaa’s sentiment.
“Wala naman (sense of competition),” the Cagayan Valley native said. “Hindi naman ‘to dahil sa draft eh. Para ‘to sa bansa.”
“Lahat naman dito, gusto ipaglaban yung spot nila, so nandito lang kami para (lumalaban) mapasama sa (final) twelve,” he added.
Only Rosario, though, has a chance to make the roster, as Tautuaa failed to secure his Philippine passport before he turned 16, now a Fiba requirement.
Tautuaa used to be the consensus No. 1 selection, but Rosario’s stock has risen of late owing to his impressive showings since he helped National University win the UAAP title last year, became a vital piece in Hapee’s championship run in the D-League Aspirants’ Cup, and in the Gilas Cadets’ golden finish in the Southeast Asian Games.
Conditioning is also one of Rosario’s advantages as Tautuaa is coming off a vacation in the US for more than a month.
“Pag tumagal siya dito, siguradong makukundisyon na ‘yan,” said Rosario, who has been training with Gilas since camp started two weeks ago.
“Oo (mas kundisyon ako sa kanya) kasi after ng National University (campaign), halos wala akong pahinga eh. Dere-deretso na, pero hindi ko naman masasabing advantage (ko na mas kundisyon),” he added.