ASI Taulava, once the most dominant big man in the Philippine Basketball Association, had been attending the PBA Rookie Draft for the last 13 years and has seen players come and go.
Asked during Sunday’s 2013 Draft at Midtown Robinson’s Place in Ermita if he recalls how many he has attended, the 6-foot-9 Taulava, now 40, laughed and said: “I’ve been around for so long, I’ve lost track.”
A direct hire by the Mobiline Phone Pals, as with Danny Seigle (San Miguel Beer), in 1999 – the year Sonny Alvarado became the No. 1 pick overall (Tanduay) – Taulava is now on his second generation of PBA players.
“It’s nice to see these young kids here, some of whom have dads I’ve even played with,” said the 2003 Most Valuable Player, pointing to 12th pick Jeric Teng (Rain or Shine), whose father, Alvin Teng, Taulava had banged bodies with inside the paint countless times.
And he has some solid advice for the younger Teng and his fellow neophytes.
“It’s one thing to get drafted, it’s another to continue working to prove that you belong in the PBA,” said the 13-year veteran and two-time All-Star MVP.
Taulava has proven himself enough to deserve an extended tour of duty with the Air21 Express and he intends to use this to introduce The Rock to the incoming young guns.
“I’m gonna show them my 40-year-old face,” he said, laughing again. “A 40-year-old who’s not ready to give up yet. Age is up there but the heart’s still got it.”
Even as he welcomes the newcomers (44 of 79 applicants got drafted), Taulava feels for those who failed to make the grade.
“Looking at their faces, I just feel sorry for them, sitting there and not getting drafted,” he said. “But it’s not the end of the world for them and I wish them the best of luck.”
So what kind of danger can a man of 40 pose for these 20-year-old rookies, especially Greg Slaughter (Barangay Ginebra San Miguel), Ian Sangalang (San Mig Coffee) and Raymond Almazan (Rain or Shine)?
“They’ll find out soon enough,” he said, feigning conceit. “After all, the competitive edge is still there for me.”
And his famous blond locks?
“Oh, the hair is gonna come back,” he reassured. “As soon as the season takes off, the rock hairdo’s coming back.” (WJRHT)