Taulava, PH out to conquer the Great Wall
JAKARTA—Asi Taulava calls himself the “old man” of Gilas Pilipinas. But he still has a very sharp memory.
And that keeps the 45-year-old very motivated.
“Oh, they’re going to get it,” Taulava told the Inquirer after practice on Sunday afternoon, referring to China which he remembers vividly well of trying every trick in the book to slow down a 2015 version of Gilas Pilipinas in the Fiba Asia Championship in Changsha, a progressive town in Hunan province.
“They did everything—tear down the goal when we were going to do our shoot-around, making our bus come in late for our trip to the gym. They did everything,” Taulava said, referring to the host nation that year that eventually won the title over the game Filipinos under Tab Baldwin.
“Playing China out of China? That will be fun,” Taulava said in a vengeful tone as the Filipinos, under Yeng Guiao this time and reinforced by Cleveland star Jordan Clarkson, battle the Chinese Tuesday afternoon at GBK’s Basketball Hall here.
“We’re playing them here? Whooooo!” he said.
“There’s a lot of hatred between the two teams, it doesn’t matter who’s playing [for both teams] and who’s not,” he said. “But everybody [in the Gilas team] knows that we have to be up for that one game. We’re excited.”
Clashing with China in the group phase of the tournament is an ideal proposition for the Philippines.
Not only will the Filipinos meet the Chinese again until the medal rounds—possibly the one for the gold—but it also sweetens the pot, so to speak, if they manage to scale the Great Wall bannered by two NBA players.
Beating the Chinese Tuesday would mean an easy assignment in the quarterfinals, which could possibly be against Thailand. A loss would line the Filipinos up against South Korea, the defending champion which Guiao believes is more beatable than the Chinese even with the Koreans beefed up by naturalized player Ricardo Ratliffe.
Scribes here suggested that Asi, because of his size, can take care of Ratliffe.
“But we want to beat China,” he said. “It would be fun beating China.”
Taulava is the tallest—and beefiest—player that Yeng Guiao has in the team he assembled just over two weeks ago.
He knows that he will be called upon against the Chinese as the Filipinos try to even things up underneath, but Taulava also knows where the Philippines’ biggest strength lies.
“We have the best backcourt I’ve seen in years,” said Taulava, playing in his third Asian Games, referring to Paul Lee and Stanley Pringle who will join Clarkson. “People may think we are underprepared, but we have grown everyday in practice. We let it all out when we step on the floor.”
“You see all these guys come together and they are just willing to sacrifice,” he said. “We’ve gotten closer than we expected.”
He then politely broke up the interview to join the rest of the team back to the Athletes Village: “Excuse me, fellas, the old man has to get his rest.”