MANILA, Philippines -- As the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup progresses, San Miguel center Moala Tautuaa is learning to embrace his bigger role with the Beermen.
Tautuaa was thrust into the spotlight when reigning PBA Most Valuable Player June Mar Fajardo suffered a leg fracture in February, ruling him out for the season. Without the "Kraken," Tautuaa now has more responsibility as SMB's starting center.
He responded with a 20-point, 11-rebound effort in a 94-78 win over Magnolia in March, but the season was suspended just three days after that game due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
When the season restarted inside the bubble, Tautuaa was more erratic. He had 17 points and 11 boards in a loss to Rain or Shine, but just nine points in another defeat to TNT Tropang Giga. Against TerraFirma on Monday, he looked as though he had gotten his bearings back with a 25-point outing where he made eight of his 11 attempts from the field.
With Tautuaa playing better, the Beermen arrested their skid and claimed a 105-98 result.
"Coach (Leo Austria) has been talking to my ear this whole time," Tautuaa said in a post-game interview after earning Best Player of the Game honors. "He's making sure that I assert my dominance, you know."
"We're missing June Mar down there, and that's my position," he added. "So I have no other business out there, and I'm just gonna be down here, working as hard as I can to make sure that my team's successful."
Austria was pleased with Tautuaa's effort, but he wants more consistency from his big man.
"I hope na magdire-diretso na itong ginagawa niya," he said.
"Before the start of the bubble, talagang we told him na this is your role, go to the post. But because of his habit before na he can take his shot in the perimeter," Austria also said. "I'm not taking away his shot, but what I want from him is you have to play on your strength."
After four games, Tautuaa is averaging 17.8 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game for the Beermen.