IN just his second season in the pro league since being drafted 11th overall by Air21 in 2012, Yousef Taha has found himself traded more times (five) than he cared to remember.
Over the past twelve months alone, Taha saw himself play for Barangay Ginebra, Globalport Batang Pier, and the Petron Blaze Boosters before being sent back to GlobalPort at the start of the PBA Governors’ Cup and, just last Tuesday, to San Mig Coffee Mixers.
After being involved in five trades, the towering Fil-Palestinian is candid enough to admit that he is aware that his nomadic existence have become a butt of jokes of fans who point out that Taha is halfway to playing for all the existing 10 teams in the pro league.
“I’ve been traded a lot of times. And I am aware of how the fans say I might play for all the existing 10 PBA teams, and I am halfway there,” Taha told Spin.ph.
Still, the athletic sophomore big man insists that he has what it takes to play in the league - and find a niche in one team for that matter.
It's just that the constant travelling has not given him a chance to prove it.
“There’s more to me than being a trade bait. I just can’t prove it because of the constant trades. They haven’t seen anything yet (from me), they really haven’t,” he said.
Fans should understand. Even before he could get familiar with one team's plays, he is off to another ballclub to master a whole new playbook. The five trades he has become involved him has sent him on a journey to new gyms, new trainers, and different practice times.
No wonder he couldn't get any footing.
“(Constantly moving from one team to another) messes up my routine. I can’t get used to one routine, I have to move gyms, different practice times, different trainers,” he said.
But after the three-team, seven-player trade completed last Tuesday night, Taha is hopeful he can finally find a home - and a permanent address - at San Mig, even if it entails finding a niche in the Mixers' deep frontline rotation.
“Hopefully, I could just get a good chemistry now with my teammates, everyone's plays are the same names but different movements. Being in my position is not the easiest thing.
“Hopefully, I could just stick it out here and grow with this team (San Mig).”
Taha, however, is not angry at all the teams that have sent him away. He said injuries have also kept him from proving his worth with the teams he had previously played for.
For podcast of full interview with Taha, click HERE
The hard-banging forward got the needed break at Petron before he suddenly injured his knee. And just as he was getting the playing time at GlobalPort, he was again saddled by a hip flexor strain.
“I feel like I haven’t been getting minutes wherever I’ve been, and I got hurt. I’ve been getting a lot of minutes in my first game at Global and then I hurt myself the next day in practice,” he said.
“I haven’t been really practicing lately, I’ve just been rehabbing my injury. Hopefully, I’ll be back next week and it’s healing right now,” Taha said.
And now that he is with the most successful team in the league the past two years, Taha said he is motivated to grasp San Mig’s complicated triangle offense and hopefully break into the Mixers’ star-studded rotation.
“I have a lot to learn. I know it will take time, I was watching practice today and the triangle was like second nature to them. One pass they know what to do,” he said.
“If I get on that comfort level (of knowing the triangle) … I’d be good,” he vowed. “I can’t get my hopes too high to stay on any team, but I don’t know. We’ll see.”
At San Mig, Taha said he would be happy to win the grand slam, but happier if he can help the team complete the rare achievement.
“I’d do everything to become a factor to winning it,” he said. "I'd do everything coach would want me to do to be a factor.
“I feel I can help any team. I just tell that if the coach can just give me time, my minutes… I’ll be good.”
Eventually, the former North Lake College forward said he’d want to see his name etched in stone on his San Mig jersey.
“I always say that when I get traded it’s a good thing coz other teams want me, but I want to finally settle down (with one team),” he said.
But by now, he also knows that in this business, you'll never know.
“We’ll see how that goes," he said. "At the end of my fourth year (in the PBA), call me again (and we’ll see if I have already played for the five other teams in the league)."