Three different PBA ballclubs. Three different goals. One united response to the call of national interest.
When RP-Smart Gilas coach Rajko Toroman hinted of his wish a few months ago to have Kelly Williams and Asi Taulava in the national team bound for the Asian Games in Guangzhou, China next month, both players were as good as delivered.
Williams plays for the Talk ‘N Text Tropang Texters whose coach, Chot Reyes, handled the RP team that played in the FIBA Asia Championships in Tokushima, Japan three years ago.
For his part, Taulava, a three-time national player, was readily made available by the governor of his former team, Coca-Cola’s JB Baylon – a pledge honored by the Meralco Bolts when the 6-foot-9 veteran center got traded from the Tigers.
But when the clarion call for a hard-driving point guard was sounded, and the name of Solomon Mercado, one-half of Rain or Shine’s Dynamic Duo, cropped up, a minor concern arose.
Does he want to play for the RP team? And would Elasto Painters management be willing to part with their prized playmaker?
Co-owners Terry Que and Raymund Yu quickly put to rest all trepidations.
“We came to a decision easily," said Yu. “When we learned that they needed Sol, we immediately released him to the RP team without much thought. We really wanted to help the program."
“It’s not going to be easy for us without Sol because he's the team's sparkplug. Without him, it's going to be fifty-fifty for us every game," said Que. “But we have to do everything for our country's sake, and we're willing to sacrifice in order for Smart Gilas to achieve its goal in Guangzhou. As long as it is for the country's interest, we'll cooperate all the way."
Reyes said Talk ‘N Text, could have made available more players had their services been required as well.
“Considering we don’t have Ranidel [De Ocampo], losing Kelly will really be a big blow. But I believe it is every team’s duty at every level to lend players for the country, so we never hesitated. In fact, we would’ve lent more."
Extending a helping hand to “flag and country," according to Meralco coach Ryan Gregorio, is “non-negotiable."
“We’re happy with the thought that the Bolts can help the Smart Gilas team by lending them our premier center," Gregorio said. “It might affect us in terms of our chances of winning [in the PBA Philippine Cup], but it gives us great satisfaction that we are doing it for a higher calling."
Labeling the selflessness less of a sacrifice and more of a “source of pride" for his team,
Gregorio also paid tribute to Taulava for his willingness to again don the national colors.
“It’s not easy to practice two times a day under two different basketball systems, and it speaks well of the kind of patriotism that Asi has developed through the years," said Gregorio. “For him, there’s nothing more significant in life than to serve the country and wear its colors proudly."
The Asian Games is set Nov. 12-17. – RCJ/KY, GMANews.TV