Slowly but surely, Mo Tautuaa sees himself finally living up to expectations
TNT center Mo Tautuaa slams one home. Marlo Cueto

MO Tautuaa is still not the big man TnT Katropa hopes would be its answer to San Miguel’s June Mar Fajardo or even Barangay Ginebra’s Greg Slaughter.

But slowly, he’s getting there.

The 6-foot-8 Fil-Tongan had 18 points and eight rebounds in his best game in a long while, leading the Katropa to a 106-98 win over the Alaska Aces on Friday night in the final PBA Philippine Cup game for the year at the Cuneta Astrodome.

Tautuaa admitted feeling good after the performance that saw him go 8-of-12 from the field, including a perfect 2-of-2 from three-point range, and help TnT register its first win of the new season.

“It’s about time, right? It’s been a long road but I just got to find my niche, I just got to find my groove,” said Tautuaa, who beat out star teammate Jayson Castro and fellow third year big man Troy Rosario for the Best Player of the Game honor.

“It’s been tough, it’s been taking a long time. We have an encouraging team this year, so it makes a little bit easier (for me).”

The performance rekindled hope of the former No. 1 pick overall blossoming into a dominant force in the middle for a TNT team lacking in a dominant force inside since the retirement of Ali Peek.

Tautuaa, however, said he’s always ready to embrace that challenge.

“We’re always ready. We come to that rectangle knowing that it’s always battle time, so we don’t come into it thinking that anything’s going to be given,” he stressed. “We always got to stay ready. We just prepare the best way we can.”

“Of course, it’s frustrating when you’re not getting the results you want,” added Tautuaa. “But my goal for myself is to get better and not to be discouraged.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos