A former UAAP player who was part of the New Zealand squad that beat Gilas Pilipinas in their FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers match Sunday, Feb. 27 admitted coming in with a lot to prove.
Taane Samuel, who played one season for La Salle as a foreign student athlete in 2018, said he was glad to be able to play a key role in the Tall Blacks’ 88-63 win at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
Samuel scored 12 points, making all five shots including two from three-point range while adding three rebounds and two assists in almost 19 minutes as he was able to show some skills that many perhaps didn’t see back when he donned the Green Archers uniform.
“It’s huge for me because I didn’t really perform to the best of my abilities when I was here,” Samuel said after the match that gave the Tall Blacks a 2-0 record in Group A of the qualifiers.
The 6-foot-7 averaged 5.5 points and 3.0 rebounds but played only four games during Season 81 that ended with La Salle being eliminated by Far Eastern University in a playoff for the last Final Four berth.
He went back to New Zealand to play as a professional, emerging as one of the National Basketball League’s top players for the Manawatu Jets and later for the Wellington Saints where he and ex-FEU cager Ken Tuffin won the championship last year.
“It was kind of like a statement game for me and I just wanted to showcase what I can do because people didn’t really have faith in me when I was here, especially playing for La Salle which is one of the biggest schools in the Philippines. So yeah, this game was big for me,” said Samuel.
Other than making a statement, Samuel, who is now a developmental player for Australia NBL side Brisbane Bullets, was glad to be able to face familiar faces from Gilas, namely former La Salle teammate Kib Montalbo and ex-UAAP opponents Thirdy Ravena and Juan Gomez de Liano.
“I enjoyed it because I like how they play here,” he said. “It’s so physical, and especially in the UAAP, it's a tough college league to play and especially for me, even coming from New Zealand.
“But now playing against Thirdy, playing against Juan again. It's different and it's good to see how far they've come and it's good to see how much they flourish as basketball players.”