By Alvin Aquino, Special to The China Post
When Selecta-RP trooped to the court against a Chinese Taipei team it is scheduled to meet in the quarterfinals of the Asian Games, if the natural order of the universe takes place, it had little idea what its opponent would look like. At the end of one and a half quarters, the picture was clear.
Chinese Taipei’s Tien Lei was as good as hyped.
The team was well adapted to the international style of play.
And the entire Chinese Taipei frontline collapsed into pieces at the sight of Filipino-Tongan Asi “the Hunk” Taulava. Taulava turned the shaded lane into his own private space and led the RP five to a 95-59 rout of the visiting Chinese Taipei team last night in the first of two exhibition matches between the two countries at the Araneta Coliseum.
The only thing in the picture that very few people saw did not escape national coach Jong Uichico, though.
“They’re a lot better than what we saw tonight. I watched them play in the Jones Cup and I know that they’re a very good team,” said Uichico.
So good, in fact, that Uichico knows the result in the next game between both squads, which will be played in the hill-nestled Ynares Center in Antipolo City, will not be as easy as last night’s match was.
“I don’t think they saw us play as a team yet. And they hadn’t had time to adjust here,” Uichico said.
The Chinese Taipei team is not even the same one the Nationals are expected to meet in the quarterfinals of the Asiad. Chen Hsin-An, dubbed Taiwan’s “Prince of Dunk”, did not accompany the team here because he reportedly got an invitation to play at the Sacramento Kings camp in the National Basketball Association.
And Uichico also saw that how the game was won last night isn’t how the Asian Games will be won. Taulava is not going to barrel through a mainland China frontline composed of Yao Ming, Wang Zhizhi and Bateer Menk.
“Asi knows that. He knows that as long as he can do his thing inside, he’s free to do so. If not, he has to stay away and let the perimeter guys do their thing,” Uichico said.
Last night, the perimeter guys did their share. Although it was Taulava who orchestrated a 20-2 run that gave the Philippines a 49-26 lead at the half, Selecta did make three-of-six from beyond the arc and connected their fair share of medium jumpers.
“We’re using these games as a step to get back into the amateur style of play. If you look at the Chinese Taipei team, they shoot so well, even their big men are comfortable taking jump shots. We have to learn to defend players who take jumpers instead of posting up,” Uichico explained.
Eric “Major Pain” Menk exploded 15 points while teammate Danny Idlfonso scattered 14. Tien hammered 18 points and Chou Hung-yu