At 39 years old, Asi Taulava was the oldest player to suit up in the PBA this season.
But the Meralco Bolts center did not play like his age at all, improving on his averages in scoring and rebounding compared to last season, and helping the Bolts claim their first semifinals berth in franchise history in the Governors’ Cup, where he averaged a double-double of 10.8 points and 10.1 rebounds.
The resurgent performance was a result of hard work. Taulava underwent a rigorous routine to stay in shape, doing extra work outside the three-hour daily Meralco practice.
“There are two people who I’d like to thank for getting me back in shape. They’re coach John Aquino and coach Alton Lister,” said Taulava in a telephone interview.
Aquino helped Taulava with his plyometrics exercises while Lister, a veteran NBA center who is part of the Meralco coaching staff, would work out with Taulava on the court.
Taulava, the league’s Most Valuable Player in 2003, spends an extra three hours daily on extra work.
“I will spend an hour and a half to Coach John for the plyometrics then I will spend another one and a half hours for Coach Alton Lister. He’s a big man coach, almost seven feet tall and an NBA veteran. He taught me a lot when it comes to post moves and we played one-on-one during the sessions,” added Taulava.
Meralco team manager Virgil Villavicencio said it was Taulava himself, and not the squad, who initiated the extra training.
“He was paying for the workouts, particularly the plyometrics exercises, on his own,” said Villavicencio.
Taulava’s contract with the Bolts has expired, but with his performance, he remains one of the cornerstones of the franchise despite his age.
“We have 10 players with expiring contracts, but we intend to keep the core of the squad for next season. One of those who have expiring contracts is Asi, but as long as he can stay in good condition, there’s a big possibility he will be retained,” said Villavicencio.
Taulava will be on vacation with his family in Guam before looking toward next season.
“I will wait for the offer and see what the future has in store for me. But right now, I want to enjoy the vacation with my family,” said Taulava.
To be sure, one word never crosses his mind: retirement.
“I’m not thinking of retirement yet. That’s far from my mind,” Taulava said.
“That’s the reason why I worked hard to get myself back in tip-top condition.”
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