At 45 years old, Asi Taulava is set to become the oldest basketball player in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.
After Philippines national head coach Yeng Guiao revealed the final 12-man lineup Friday for the upcoming quadrennial meet, Taulava himself couldn't believe his inclusion.
"[I'm] still in disbelief right now. I don't know what to say," Taulava humbly said. "I'm kind of overwhelmed, wasn't expecting this to happen, fall into place like this.
"Given this opportunity, still be competing, be part of the final 12 for the Asian games, unbelievable."
Joining the NLEX Road Warriors center are fellow PBA standouts Chris Tiu, Gabe Norwood, Maverick Ahanmisi, James Yap, Beau Belga, Raymond Almazan, Paul Lee, Christian Stanhardinger, JP Erram, Stanley Pringle, and if deemed eligible, Jordan Clarkson of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
"Wow. Like a Cinderella story," Taulava said, mentioning that his addition to the initial 14-man pool was already overwhelming. "I know this is not the end of the journey, the journey is just about to begin tomorrow in our first tune-up, so we gotta go out there and bust our tails."
The Tongan-born Filipino center has represented the country multiple times and this will be his third go-around in the Asian Games. He first competed in 2002 in Busan where the Philippines finished in fourth place.
"I consider myself a rookie in 2002, my first tournament, now I'm more experienced," he said. "When I was younger in 2002 I tended to do a lot of things. I didn't know what my strength was."
Taulava donned the Philippine jersey again in the 2010 Games in Doha but that team missed out on a podium finish once again. The last time he represented the country was in 2015 at the FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, China, where the Philippines earned silver.
"I thought that I was done, but here again on a mission with the new guys," he said, smiling. "It's kinda hard to take in."
At 45, Taulava knows that his biggest advantage won't be his 6-foot-9 frame or his hulking figure. It won't be his reliable post moves nor even his newfound 3-point acumen. Instead, his contribution to the team will be his experience. The former PBA MVP in 2003 will look to lean on the young talent available on the team, which includes Stanley Pringle, Paul Lee and Maverick Ahanmisi. "Being the oldest guy, I just gotta be mature. I gotta help the guys out. I'm coach's assistant on the bench with the players I have to find ways to reach out on them," he said. "Just pick and choose my spots. It's gonna be fun."
After his Asian Games debut 16 years ago, Taulava hopes to finally bring home a medal.
"Now, [I've] set my goals a little bit higher with these guys. Let's go for gold," he said.