MOALA Tautuaa channels his excitement into game energy when he makes his long-awaited PBA debut as Talk ‘N Text and Alaska square off to open their Philippine Cup campaigns on Friday night at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
The Tropang Texters rookie slotman has been so pumped up to play in Asia first play-for-pay league that he admitted he would’ve gone pro right way if he could have. But the Filipino-Tongan had to go through residency in the D-League, where he eventually played two conferences that boosted his draft stock to ultimately become this year’s No. 1 overall pick.
“I’m really excited, man,” Tautuaa said in a chat with Spin.ph on opening day. “I remember watching the PBA before D-League… so it’s all been built up since then.”
“I kind of wanted to go straight to the PBA, but I understood I had to go through D-League,” added the 26-year-old big man, who forms half of the Texters’ vaunted rookie twin towers alongside Troy Rosario.
Although he wanted to go pro right away, the 6-foot-7 Tautuaa acknowledged playing in the developmental league, where he earned an MVP award in his second conference, also prepared him well for the physicality in PBA.
He won’t have to turn to all that physicality, though, as he adjusts to the league’s stricter officiating.
“The D-League kind of groomed me to play really physical, but I feel I might have some foul trouble, because of the new rules,” Tautuaa said. “In the D-League, everything can happen there, and now, I watched the game tonight to see how the officiating was going to go. And it really slowed down the game.”
“Bonuses (penalty free throws) come a little earlier and there are a lot less hand checks… there are a lot of drives happening because we can’t foul. We don’t have any more room for error,” said the Chadron State College product.
“It’s going to change the game a bit, because we’re going to have to work harder on defense. It’ll make teams have to think more and that’s what we’ve been practicing lately.”
“I have no problems with the calls,” he was quick to point out. “We just have to adjust to the refs, but it’s going to take time.”
Tautuaa, who bolsters a Texters' frontline led by Ranidel de Ocampo, said he has to learn to keep his emotions in check if he is to be successful in the pro league.
“I want to be a respected player and has a good intelligence of the game, someone who’s smart,” he said. “I feel like that’s what I want to groom myself into being, because I know I can be — I’m not saying I’m a great player — but I can be if I use my mind and play smart.
“Hopefully I can get there — sooner than later.”