MANILA, Philippines – Moala Tautuaa showed on Sunday that he was ready, willing and able to fill in the spot left by June Mar Fajardo when he helped San Miguel Beer to a big win over the Magnolia Hotshots in the PBA Philippine Cup.
The Beermen kicked off their 2020 campaign with an impressive 94-78 rout of the Hotshots, with five players scoring in double-digits.
Tautuaa led the team with 20 points on 9-of-14 shooting, along with 11 rebounds and 2 blocks while playing over 41 minutes in the victory.
"You know, my brain says it's good, but right now my knees are telling me to get some ice and sit down," Tautuaa joked when asked if he was comfortable with his new role for San Miguel. "So next time, if I play the minutes I did, this interview is gonna be sitting down, okay?"
He may have been exhausted after playing more minutes than usual, but Tautuaa is ready to keep stepping up for the Beermen as they will miss Fajardo for the entire Filipino Cup, and possibly for the rest of the season.
Tautuaa, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 PBA Rookie Draft, is not entirely unused to the situation. Back when he played for NorthPort last year, he also served as one of the focal points of their offense.
"You saw me, I was getting the ball quite often," said Tautuaa. "And coach wants me to produce, and you know, right now it's an equal opportunity team."
"Everyone's touching the ball, everyone's getting it and everyone's moving," he added. "We gotta play together, so, yes, it's the same thing like NorthPort, where they're gonna give it to the open man and expose what's working, and just continue to feed what's working."
Coach Leo Austria, for his part, praised Tautuaa's effort especially as he provided them with the inside presence that they are used to getting from Fajardo.
"I have to commend Mo dahil it seems a lot of people are thinking na without June Mar, nobody can score inside the paint," he said.
"But Mo can score inside the paint. At hindi lang 'yan, he could play defense too," he added.
While he is pleased with his performance, Tautuaa stressed that the key to more victories is a consistent team effort. After all, he was not the only one who put up points: Arwind Santos got an 18-point, 15-rebound double-double, and Terrence Romeo scored 19 points in under 30 minutes of action.
"I know we got a lot of good players," said Tautuaa. "(We) understand that we have a good team, and if all of us are playing together, that's what happens."
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).