Tautuaa ready to fill hole left by Fajardo as SMB hunts for back-up bigs

Moala Tautuaa could be thrust into an expanded role in the middle for San Miguel with June Mar Fajardo out indefinitely after suffering a devastating shin injury.

Tautuaa said he is more than ready to shoulder the task.

"It's just time for me to step up, just continue to play basketball and help the team as much as I can," Tautuaa said Wednesday. "I'm just going to work as hard as I can, like I always do, bring what I can to the table and make sure we're successful at the end of every game."

The Beermen bigs are expected to divvy up the minutes left by Fajardo, who underwent surgery on a fractured right tibia Tuesday, but Tautuaa is arguably the main beneficiary when the Philippine Cup comes around next month.

Soaking up the load in the frontline is nothing new for Tautuaa, who was traded to San Miguel in October. The big man started 28 times in 38 games last season and averaged 14.0 points and 7.5 rebounds on 49.9 percent shooting.

"I started last conference too a few times. I was starting in NorthPort every game. No pressure," he said. "I'm still playing against the same players. Now I just have a different team surrounding me. It's not anything I'm not accustomed to. It's just the same role but on a different jersey."

But Tautuaa also believes the entire team is bound to pick up the slack given the abundance of talent still present despite Fajardo's absence.

"We still have a good team. We're still enough. We're not really worried about anything. I mean we're worried for June Mar, prayers for him. But we're still keeping the ball moving, keep going. We'll pray for him, but we'll keep moving," he noted. "We're still good. As far as anything goes, right now we're trying to work with what we have."

Added Tautuaa: "We're good for a reason. We gotta continue to just play and make ourselves comfortable in situations, just like this, and we gotta be successful. The scoring and the rebounding shifted to more than one person, but when it's all said and done, we're still a team and we gotta keep going."

San Miguel doesn't appear it will lean solely on Tautuaa, though, as coach Leo Austria bared the teams plans to look for another center to supplement a thin frontcourt.

"We only have a few big man because we weren't thinking that incident will happen to June Mar," said the coach. "Right now, we're scouting and waiting for the list of players from free agents' players. But I think in the next few days, we'll find out."

Tautuaa and Billy Mamaril are the only pure centers present on the roster right now, but Russel Escoto and Arwind Santos could also play minutes at the five if the team is unable to land some of its current targets.

"I cannot mention any names because some of the players are still trying out for some teams and it's unethical to release the names," Austria said. "But in the next few days, I think we will see. Definitely we need another big man because we got suddenly got smaller."