Friday, September 30, 2011

Paulasi Taulava: A Tribute

Philippine basketball produced unique players that defined a generation. I’m talking about players that made a marked in Philippine basketball for Flag and Country. There was Jovito Gonzales who was a member of the first ever national team and went on to lead the country to six consecutive Far Eastern Games, the master-breeder Lou Salvador in the 1920s, Ambrosio Padilla in the 1930s, the world class Carlos Loyzaga in the 1950s and the 1960s, and Robert Jaworski in the 1970s. Then there were the NCC trio of Allan Caidic, Samboy Lim, and Hector Calma in the 1980s onwards to the 1990s, and there was Alvin Patrimonio. Then came Romel Adducul and most recently, we have the Filipino-Tongan Paulasi Taulava. Sure, there are many other Filipino players that I should have mention but I am only talking about long-time serving "national team" players.

Last year, the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) approved the inclusion of national team veteran Paulasi Taulava, the most experienced of the active (non-retired) internationals, and four other PBA reinforcements to the national team bound for the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship in Wuhan, China. In fact, Taulava volunteered as early as the 2010 FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup to help the undermanned Smart Gilas Pilipinas, coached by Rajko Toroman (Serbia). He went on to play in his second Asian Games campaign and helped the national team to a 6th place finished. Most recently, Taulava won his third bronze medal in the William Jones Cup and may have represented the country for the final time in his third Asian Championships after helping the national team to a fourth place finished.

After years of being racistly denied the right of being a Filipino, Taulava turned out to be the most patriotic of our so-called professional basketball players. Even in those years when he fought for his citizenship, when he tried to prove to everyone that he is a Filipino or at least part Filipino, he never left the Philippines while other so-called Fil-Shams just jump on the plane and left the country. Taulava fought for his right to be a Filipino and beat the "racist" system that tried to earn a buck from Filipino-foreign players. Heck, one of his first assignments after he was allowed to play again in 2005 was to play for Chot Reyes' San Miguel-backed Philippine national team that went on to captured the William Jones Cup bronze medal and the minor Brunei Cup.

Taulava's place in the national team, and I'm talking about as a long-time serving member of the national team just like those before him, will be taken over by one of the Smart Gilas Pilipinas core members, possibly by the undrafted Chris Tiu and naturalized player Marcus Douthit.

Anyway, here is a list of Taulava's international experience. 

Tournaments with International Caps (vs. National Teams):
  • 2002 Philippines-Chinese Taipei Basketball Series
  • 2002 Philippines-Qatar Basketball Series
  • 2002 Four Nations Euro Challenge Invitational Tournament (Italy), 3rd place
  • 2002 Asian Games, 4th place (semi-finalists)
  • 2005 William Jones Cup, 3rd place (bronze)
  • 2006 Philippines-Lebanon Basketball Series
  • 2007 Southeast Asia Basketball Association (SEABA) champions
  • 2007 William Jones Cup, 3rd place (bronze)
  • 2007 Four Nations Manila Invitational Tournament champions
  • 2007 Philippines-Kuwait Basketball Series
  • 2007 FIBA Asia Championship, 9th place
  • 2009 Southeast Asia Basketball Association (SEABA) champions
  • 2009 William Jones Cup, 6th place
  • 2009 FIBA Asia Championship, 8th place (quarter-finalists)
  • 2010 FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup, 4th place (semi-finalists)
  • 2010 Asian Games (Guangzhou, China), 6th place 
  • 2011 William Jones Cup (Taipei, Taiwan), 3rd place (bronze)
  • 2011 FIBA Asia Championship (Wuhan, China), 4th place (semi-finalists)

Other Tournaments/Exhibitions (vs. Non-National Teams):
  • 2002 Philippines-Melbourne Tigers Basketball Series
  • 2005 Brunei Cup champions
  • 2006 Brunei Cup champions
  • 2006 Philippines-USA Legends
  • 2007 FIBA Asia Champions Cup, 5th place (quarter-finalists)
  • 2009 Philippines-Australian Great White Sharks Series
  • 2009 Philippines-PBA All-Star Exhibition Series
  • 2009 Ondoy Charity Games (Team Pilipinas vs. Smart Gilas)
  • 2011 Philippine Tour of Bahrain
  • 2011 Dubai Invitational Tournament, 2nd place (finalists)
  • 2011 FIBA Asia Champions Cup [also known as FIBA Asia Clubs Championship] (Manila, Philippines), 4th place (semi-finalists)
  • 2011 Ultimate All-Star Weekend: Smart Gilas Pilipinas vs. NBA/USA All-Stars Selection (Manila, Philippines)

    Taulava now holds the record for the most number of participation in major Asian tournaments by a PBA player (or by a Filipino professional player) - 6 (2002 Asian Games, 2007 FIBA Asia Championship, 2009 FIBA Asia Championship, 2010 FIBA Asia Stankovic Cup, the 2010 Asian Games, and the 2011 FIBA Asia Championship).

    Allan Caidic and Alvin Patrimonio previously held the record - 3 (1990 Asian Games, 1994 Asian Games, and 1998 Asian Games). In the 1986 Asian Games, Caidic and Patrimonio were amateurs at that time so it doesn't really count as their participation as PBA players (although, that 1986 national squad played as a guest team in the PBA prior to the Asiad meet in Korea). Same thing applies for their separate participation in the FIBA Asia Championship in 1985 (Caidic) and 1987 (Patrimonio).

    Just recently, Taulava played his fourth William Jones Cup breaking Allan Caidic's record (3 - 1984, 1985, 1998) as the most number of Jones Cup participation (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011) by a Filipino player. He also captured his third bronze medal in the competition making him the holder of most number of medals by Filipino player in William Jones Cup. Caidic still holds the record for the most Jones Cup title by a Filipino player.

    [UPDATED: As of 30 September 2011]
    P.S. Photos courtesy of Art Garcia, The 11th Rock, and struggle4ward. Also check out cod3breaker's Taulava wallpaper

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