WHILE everyone else who’s fighting for a spot has a realistic chance of getting in, Mo Tautuaa is the only one training in the Gilas Pilipinas pool who’s virtually certain to miss the cut, being an emergency option if Andray Blatche can’t make it, which is highly unlikely.
Yet Tautuaa doesn’t mind.
After all, that’s his sacrifice not just for the country, but for himself as he also seeks to improve for Tropang TNT in the coming PBA Governors’ Cup.
“I see this as step up for me because I want to be better next conference and this will lead into the next conference,” the rookie big man said. “I’ll be in better condition and shape. My hope is to be a more sharpened player.”
After the Texters’ elimination from Commissioner’s Cup playoffs, Tautuaa, who turned 27 last April 30, made the most of a two-week vacation, spending three days in Boracay to celebrate his birthday before coming home to California for 10 days.
The 2015 top draft pick could’ve continued his R&R, but instead, he decided to return to the country in time for Gilas practice despite his chances of cracking the roster for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament slim to none.
“There’s only so much you can do. It’s just fun to hang out, but right now, I want to work,” Tautuaa said. “I want to be better. And there’s only one way to get better – and that’s to work.”
In fact, the Filipino-Tongan big man already started with some individual training when he was in California, working on his shooting, post moves, and some ball handling.
Then, he has worked on conditioning, among other things, when reported for Gilas practice, where he has had perfect attendance since training resumed last Wednesday.
Tautuaa said he is hoping Blatche will arrive in better shape.
“I hope so,” he said. “We don’t have much training time, but I’m sure he’s a professional and he knows his body. He should come back in shape ready for the qualifiers.”
Or else he’s taking Blatche’s spot?
“I hope he plays, because that’s our best shot,” Tautuaa said. “He’s a bigger guy than me, brings different things to the table that we need. If I play in his position, then it’s good for me, but we want what’s best for the team.”
“Our offense is built around him already, so it’s all geared toward the player he is, so we need him,” he added.