NLEX’s evergreen slotman Asi Taulava expressed his gratitude to the Road Warriors management for giving him a fresh two-year extension deal that would mean seeing him play in the PBA till he’s 45 years old.
“We all came to terms and I feel grateful because I still had this chance to play especially with what is going on, they still trust me and want to keep me around for 2 years and all the hardwork paid off,” Taulava told FOX Sports on Monday night.
The 43-year-old Taulava said he never imagined himself playing competitive basketball in the pros in his 40s, considering that during his late 30s, he felt the door started to close for him in the PBA.
In fact, the one-time league Most Valuable Player left the PBA for a while at the start of the 2013 season to play for the San Miguel Beermen in the regional Asean Basketball League.
Fortunately, the “Rock” was able to rediscover his form that made him one of the PBA’s most dominant centers as he helped the Beermen capture the ABL championship 3 years ago, while being named tournament MVP.
He has since returned to the PBA after his stint with SMB via Air21, the franchise NLEX eventually bought early last year.
“It’s like a miracle right now. I never thought about this (playing in the PBA through his 40s) when I was in my 30s because the door was closing in my late 30s,” explained Taulava, who came into the PBA as a direct-hired player by Mobiline in 1998.
“But I think time has been flying by and I’m still playing. And now I can get to see young guys come.”
The 2 extra years with NLEX though has spurred Taulava to work even harder as he tries to set the bar of excellence within the team that has a young core to build on.
“I look at the younger generation entering the PBA, and I just kept myself in shape throughout the years,” shared the soft-spoken NLEX veteran center.
“Now, we have Kevin (Alas), Gavo (Lanete), Sean (Anthony) and Glen (Khobuntin) and all the younger guys in the team that we can build on,” he added.
Taulava also said now that he is slowly recovering from his minor knee surgery, he intends to trim his weight to around 240 pounds as he tries to keep up with the league’s younger big men like June Mar Fajardo, Greg Slaughter, Japeth Aguilar, among others.
“Being with the younger guys in our team, it makes me push myself because I have to keep in step with their pace, and I have to put in the extra hours, do whatever I have to do to keep myself in shape and have the stamina to run around,” said Taulava.
“I know my extra responsibility, not only as player, but as captain of NLEX that I have to carry myself in a certain way because if these guys see me slouching around, hanging out and not doing what I have to do, they’re gonna lose motivation,” he added.
“But when they see me work hard, they come in and work hard, too.” – Richard Dy
Follow this writer on Twitter: @richava