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No haircut, shave for Taulava

MANILA, Philippines - NLEX center Asi Taulava will neither cut his hair nor shave until the Road Warriors make it to the playoffs of the PBA Governors Cup and from early indications, it looks like he’s headed for an early appointment with the barber. NLEX is currently on top of the league standings with a 4-0 record but faces an acid test against Barangay Ginebra at the Calasiao Sports Complex in Pangasinan at 5 this afternoon.

“We match up well against Ginebra,” said Taulava, the PBA’s senior statesman at 44. “We’ve got a lot of guys to counter their big lineup like J. R. (Quinahan), Raul (Soyud), Rabeh (Al Hussaini), Aaron (Fuller), Rico (Villanueva) and me. It’ll be an interesting duel between Aaron and (Justin) Brownlee. They’re both scorers. Aaron’s advantage is rebounding. I think Brownlee won’t find it easy defending Aaron if that’s the matchup. Aaron is relentless and has a tremendous motor. He gets the defensive rebound, passes off to a teammate, runs the floor then gets in position for the offensive rebound and put-back. He just goes on and on. He’s early to practice and last to leave. Some imports don’t put in the time at the weight room but when Aaron’s not on the floor at practice, he’s in the gym lifting. He’s a hard worker and it’s rubbing off on all of us. Coach Yeng (Guiao) wants us to run, to keep the ball moving, to tire out our opponents. Nobody’s allowed to stand still and if anyone isn’t on the move, he’s sitting on the bench.”

Taulava said NLEX’ back-to-back 2-9 records in the last two conferences were a disappointment. “It took time for us to adjust to coach Yeng’s system,” he said. “But now, it’s all good. When coach Yeng came in, we were all scared of him. On practice day, we’d avoid running into him like if he’s in the weight room, we’d be on the court and if he’s on the court, we’d be in the weight room. But things have changed. He’s weeded out the guys whom he thinks won’t fit his system and with J. R., Larry (Fonacier) and Alex (Mallari) joining, we’ve got a nucleus that competes and knows coach Yeng’s style well. It’s all business and hard work at practice and during games. Off the court, we joke around and enjoy each other’s company.”

Taulava said it’s not his first time to work with Guiao. “I played on the national team under coach Yeng,” he said. “He’s very detailed in giving instructions and we like that. When he scolds you, he wants to catch your attention. He wants players to use their head, play smart. When he scolded Kevin (Alas) in that game against Rain Or Shine, coach Yeng didn’t sit him down and look what happened. Kevin sent it into overtime, took over and we won in double overtime. Everybody gets a chance to play in coach Yeng’s system. His rotation is always different so he’s never predictable.”

Taulava disclosed that last season was a struggle for him personally. “Doctors cleaned out my left knee and it took about six weeks to recover,” he said. “I was never the same. After a game, my knee would swell like there was a small ball inside it. I’d ice it and go to the hospital to drain fluid. I’ve been banging bodies in the PBA since 1999 and honestly, I wish I were as disciplined as JuneMar (Fajardo) when I was playing at his age. I’m lucky that now, I’m not playing heavy minutes but when I’m called, I’m out there giving 100 percent. Technically, I’m a playing assistant coach but I’m still focused on playing. My contract ends after next season. My future depends on what boss MVP wants. I can continue playing or get more involved in coaching our bigs and doing corporate social responsibility work. I’m often with coach Yeng when we do outreach for NLEX.”

An option for the future is assisting in the Gilas program. “I can work with the bigs like Christian (Standhardinger),” he said. “The guy has a lot of potential. He works hard, he’s tough, he has skills. When he gets to the PBA, he’ll have to adjust to the way calls are made. Will I ever become a head coach? No way, that’s too stressful.”

Author: Joaquin Henson
Full Article: http://www.philstar.com/sports/2017/08/05/1725277/no-haircut-shave-taulava

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