Asi Taulava and Dondon Hontiveros first represented the Philippines in the 2002 Busan Asian Games. The squad was just seconds away from playing in the gold medal round until a wayward three-pointer by Korean Lee Sang-Min struck the dagger to the hearts of the Filipinos.
Thirteen years already passed since that painful game, yet Taulava, 42, and Hontiveros, 38, are still playing for the national team. They are fulfilling the roles of being the elder statesmen in this year’s batch of Gilas Pilipinas vying for an Olympic berth in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship.
Allan Caidic, an assistant coach of the 2002 squad, believes Taulava and Hontiveros deserve their spots in the national team.
“I’m not surprised at all,” Caidic wrote to InterAksyon.com in a text message. “I know both of them are really deserving to be there.”
Regarded as one of the most feared shooters ever to play in the Asian basketball circuit, Caidic was part of the last amateur squad to win the Asian Basketball Confederation (now known as FIBA Asia Championship) title in 1986. He also played in the first all-pro team in the 1990 Asian Games and represented the country to two more Asiad in 1994 and 1998.
For “The Triggerman,” Taulava and Hontiveros will be essential in the Gilas Pilipinas’ campaign.
“Their leadership and experience in the 2002 Asian Games will be great help for the younger guys,” Caidic said.
Caidic’s observations were likewise shared by Jeff Cariaso, Boyet Fernandez and Kenneth Duremdes who were also members of the 2002 squad.
“It doesn’t usually happen, right? But I’m not surprised,” Cariaso said. “I’m happy for them.”
“Their major contribution will be their experience. Being the elder statesmen of the team, I feel their leadership will play a vital role on and off the court. They both have a specific skill that will contribute to the team.
“Don can spread the floor and obviously shoot the three. Asi is the perfect back up big that will be a force in the pain.”
Fernandez, who was plucked in as a reserve player in the 2002 team, believes the two veterans can still play in a high level as proven by their still-active stints in the PBA. Taulava plays under Fernandez at NLEX Road Warriors, while Hontiveros suits up for Alaska.
“Asi will bring that ‘Kuya’ attitude that will help the team to stay positive and to keep them bonded for the glory of our country,” wrote Fernandez in a text message.
“Dondon will be the designated three-point shooter at crunch time. He has lots of international experience and that will be crucial for us to achieve our goal.”
Duremdes wished his former teammates and the whole Gilas Pilipinas team well.
“We need veteran players like Asi and Dondon perfect leaders for our national team,” Duremdes said. “Good luck to our team and to my former teammates sa 2002 national team, serving the country is already like serving our people.”