MANILA, Philippines -- San Miguel head coach Leo Austria has no doubt that Moala Tautuaa will continue to step up for the Beermen as they set out to defend their All-Filipino title in the PBA's bubble in Clark, Pampanga.
Tautuaa is filling in the big shoes of reigning six-time Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo, who will not play for San Miguel this year as he is still recovering from a leg fracture that he suffered in February.
He already showed that he was ready for the challenge in March, when he put up a 20-point, 11-rebound double-double in a 94-78 win over Magnolia. The seven-month layoff due to the COVID-19 pandemic did not halt Tautuaa's momentum as he had 17 points, 11 rebounds, and five assists in an 87-83 loss to Rain or Shine on Tuesday night.
"June Mar Fajardo and Mo Tautuaa are different players," Austria said during a media availability session, Wednesday morning at the Quest Hotel, where all teams are billeted for the duration of the conference.
"You cannot compare them," he added. "Mo can help us to win some games, and we have to support him every time he's on the floor."
Tautuaa helped the Beermen recover from an early 0-16 hole against the Elasto Painters, with his three-pointer putting San Miguel on the board after a lethargic start.
He hit another huge three-pointer with under a minute to go that put SMB within three points, 81-78, before a late Rey Nambatac triple allowed ROS to escape with a slim win.
"As far as his performance is concerned, he's really there, and I know that every game, he'll be better," Austria said of Tautuaa. "He keeps on improving."
The Beermen acquired Tautuaa in the trade that sent Christian Standhardinger to the NorthPort Batang Pier. He averaged 4.33 points and 3.83 rebounds for the Beermen in his first conference with the team, averaging some 18 minutes per game.