Thursday, August 13, 2015
Moala Tautuaa eyed as back-up for Andray Blactche in Gilas Pilipinas
Moala Tautuaa, expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 PBA Rookie Draft, may not be eligible to play for the Philippine national men’s basketball team in the upcoming FIBA Asia Championship next month but there are plans in the works for the Fil-Tongan to participate with the national team in the future.
Tab Baldwin disclosed the news to sportswriters on Tuesday right after the Gilas Pilipinas training pool’s practice at the Meralco gym.
“He’ll act as backup to Andray (Blatche) as a naturalized player. Obviously, he can’t play in the roster if Andray is playing, but if something happened to Andray, that’s the direction we would like to go in now with Mo,” Baldwin said.
“We’ve spoken to his people and he’s keen on the idea of being part of the Gilas’ future and it’s very exciting for him.”
Blatche is under contract to play for Gilas in the FIBA Asia Championship, which will serve as a qualifying event for next year’s Olympics. If the Philippines qualifies – which can only be accomplished with a gold medal finish – the NBA veteran would likely continue playing for the Philippine national team next year.
But with Blatche only suiting up for major tournaments, and Marcus Douthit getting up there in age, the idea is for Tautuaa to play in the place of a naturalized player for smaller tilts like those played on the Southeast Asian level.
“We look to the future a little bit in SEA Games, SEABA and games like these in the future. We probably wouldn’t use Andray, I guess a high-profile import, so he kinda get the slot in Marcus’ role and I think that’s really exciting for Gilas basketball,” Baldwin added.
Tautuaa, who a Fil-Tongan like veteran center Asi Taulava, is disqualified from joining the national team as a non-naturalized player because of the FIBA rule that states that a player must secure a passport from the country to be represented by the time the player reaches the age of 16 to be considered a “local” player.
Teams are allowed to play only one naturalized player in tournaments.
With Tautuaa on board as Blatche’s backup, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) will also have an alternative to Douthit, who last played for Gilas in the Southeast Asian Games last June.
Douthit helped lead the Philippines to a silver medal finish in the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship to qualify for the FIBA Basketball World Cup. But there has been a dip in his performance since last year’s Asian Games.
The younger Tautuaa gives Gilas Pilipinas another option to turn to in case Blatche is unavailable to suit for the team.