Asi Taulava is now 42, but he isn’t showing signs of slowing down.
Although he doesn’t jump as high as he used to during his early years in the PBA, the evergreen NLEX slotman has showed he can still compete head on with the pro league’s younger, more athletic big men today.
Taulava said the secret is simple – discipline.
And that means discipline on the kind of food he eats, doing his individual workout and following his trainer John Aquino’s advice.
“The guy (Aquino), he’s been keeping me in shape for the past four or five years,” confided the ‘Rock’.
He was candid enough to admit that he abused his body during his early years in the PBA, drinking booze and partying at night.
Despite the ‘wild living’, Taulava seemed like ‘superman’ during his first 11 years as a pro, averaging consistent double-double numbers, winning a championship with Talk ‘N Text in the 2003 All-Filipino conference, on the way to earning his first and only league MVP trophy.
But Father Time appeared to have caught up with Taulava during the 2011 and 2012 seasons while playing for the Meralco Bolts.
At the end of the 2012 season, Taulava’s averages dwindled to career-low numbers of 7.4 points and 7.9 rebounds – stats that convinced some of his critics that perhaps, the Fil-Tongan big man’s game is on its way down.
Taulava didn’t re-sign with the Bolts during the offseason, but chose to play for the San Miguel Beermen in the fledgling regional basketball league called the Asean Basketball League.
There, the then 40-year-old Taulava seemed to have discovered the ‘fountain of youth’, leading the Beermen to the ABL championship, while capturing the league MVP in the process.
Taulava’s sterling plays earned him a ‘second chance’ in the PBA via Air21, a team he led to a semifinal finish, the Express’ best-ever performance during the 2014 Commissioner’s Cup.
Taulava got his ‘second wind’, averaging 14.7 points and 12.3 rebounds in the 2014 season, unfortunately Air21’s last season, before selling its franchise to NLEX.
“Since that big turnaround in my life, I continue to do what he (Aquino) has asked me to do, just to prepare myself,” said Taulava, who is part of Gilas Pilipinas’ 16-man national pool.
Taulava was blessed to have lasted this long in the pro league, considering the regular physicality and pounding players get every game.
I believe Taulava’s PBA journey should serve as a “warning and inspiration” for today’s generation of young players.
Warning, because failure to take care of their bodies can lead to serious repercussions, which could cut short their careers.
And inspiration, because by taking their PBA careers seriously, they can possibly experience longer playing years and who knows, be an encouragement as well to the future professional players.