AT first glance, Filipino-Tongan Moala Tautuaa can easily be mistaken for Houston Rockets star James Harden.
But the beard and looks are not the only thing they have in common.
“I also played against him in high school,” bared Tautuaa, who played for Clairemont High School in San Diego, California which squared off with Harden’s Artesia High School based in Lakewood.
After a long wait, Tautuaa has finally arrived in the country to join the Cagayan Valley Rising Suns in the D-League, his first step in his journey to his mother's homeland where he hopes to play in the PBA.
The 6-7 Tautuaa was made the top pick overall by the Rising Suns in the D-League draft but had to wrap up his commitments with Asean Basketball League side Malaysia Dragons before coming over.
After the gruelling ABL season, Tautuaa said he is ready to play for the Rising Suns on Thursday against Café France, knowing fully well he can expect a more physical game than he is accustomed to.
“Extremely physical and rough,” the 25-year-old Tautuaa said after watching Sunday’s thrilling PBA game between San Miguel and Barangay Ginebra. “Nothing like the ABL. It will be a different ballgame.”
Tautuaa admitted he is extra motivated going to his D-League stint after coming off a title loss to the Hi-Tech Bangkok City in the ABL Finals.
“I’m hungrier. We lost to the finals. It hurts. I wanted that. I always step on the court looking for a title. I don’t see how it’s going to be different this time,” said Tautuaa.
Tautuaa said he has yet to take a look at the other teams in the ongoing Aspirants Cup, but that is the least of his concerns right now.
“Right now, I’m not so much concerned about my opponent. I’m more concerned about myself,” said Tautuaa.