Versatile big man Mo Tautuaa has always dreamt of becoming part of Gilas Pilipinas and said that it didn’t take long for him to respond to the call for him to don the Philippines’ colors and play for the 3x3 national team.
The 6-foot-8 Fil-Tongan relayed that he received a two-part text message from the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) inviting him to be part of the team that will compete in the FIBA 3x3 Olympic Qualifying Tournament that will be held in Graz, Austria from May 26-30. Tautuaa said he did not take long to give an answer.
"I received a two-part text message to invite me to the team. But even before I received the second part of the invitation, I already replied that I wanted to come," the big man said.
Although this isn’t the first time Tautuaa will be donning the country’s colors in an international competition, having played for Gilas in the 2015 William Jones Cup and the national 3x3 basketball team during the 30th Southeast Asian Games, this is will be the first time that he will play in a FIBA-sanctioned tournament because he was not able to obtain a Philippine passport before the age of 16.
Tautuaa, though, is well aware of how different 3x3 basketball is from regular basketball since the ball is smaller, the shot-clock is a lot shorter, and the game played at a much faster pace. He already got a taste of that when he teamed up with CJ Perez, Jason Perkins, and Chris Newsome to win the gold medal in 3x3 basketball at the SEA Games.
However, the level of play will be much different in the OQT as they face Slovenia, France, Qatar, and the Dominican Republic, all of whom are active in the global FIBA 3x3 circuit. The good thing is the country's top player in Joshua Munzon, along with no. 6 Karl Dehesa and no. 8 Santi Santillan are here to guide them during their seven-day training camp at the INSPIRE Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna.
“This is going to be the first time we played against this caliber, this level, me and CJ. Josh, Alvin [Pasaol], Santi, and Karl have experienced it in the pro circuit,” he said.
During that week, the hulking big man realized that their opponents in the OQT compared to the SEA Games will be much bigger and more skilled. That is why for his part, he is looking to improve on the other facets of his game when they return to the Calambubble later this week.
"You can't just be fast, you also have to be strong. But you can't just be strong, you also need to shoot or post up in 3x3," he said.
"I feel I can dabble with all those areas, not at the highest level, but good enough to where the defense will respect me wherever I am on the floor."
And he is doing all of this to show his gratefulness to the federation and SMART for making his Gilas dreams come true.
"I'm thankful to the SBP, Boss Al [Panlilio], and Coach Ronnie [Magsanoc] for this opportunity to represent the country," said Tautuaa.
“We want to win and we got that Filipino brand. We’re not going to back down to anybody. We’re going to go there and see what we go.” (JNP)