Carl Tamayo was coming off a championship high with University of the Philippines in the UAAP Season 84 men’s basketball tournament, ending the 36-year wait for the Fighting Maroons.
There, he was one of the reasons for the return to glory of the proud Diliman-based school, be it bulldozing his way inside the paint or showing off his stroke from the outside.
But donning the colors of the Philippines this time, was a reality check for the youthful Tamayo.
Especially since he was forced to play bigger than his actual size due to the lack of big men in Gilas camp for the 2023 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers’ third window. Only 6-foot-8 Geo Chiu, still undersized, was the only natural five in the lineup.
He needs to bulk up for the international stage where big, strong grown men play.
“‘Yung mindset nila (Tall Blacks), the way they play talagang physical,” said Tamayo, who rolled his right ankle during the final quarter of the contest after running into a screen of 6-foot-7 Tom Vodanovich.
“Doon ko nakitang kailangan talaga magpalakas ng katawan kasi ganoon pala sa international na high level na mga kalaban mong didiin sa ‘yo.”
Not only they are strong, but they know how to carry their weight. It’s not all power and might.
The 21-year-old hooper out of Talisay, Cebu surely learned a lot playing for the Philippines anew, matching up against Korea twice, New Zealand, and India which features 7-foot-2 big man Aryan in a span of fewer than two weeks.
“‘Yung pagiging mobile nila kahit malaki sila, pagiging athletic nila, pagiging smart nila ‘yun ‘yung mga bagay na natutunan ko at sinusubukan kong i-apply sa laro ko,” said Tamayo, who averaged 12.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in the window.
The Fighting Maroon had a game-high 16 points to go with five rebounds against four turnovers in Gilas’ 60-106 loss to the Tall Blacks.
Then, he played hurt in the country’s win against India, 79-63, where he was quick to show some improvements.
He showed another facet of his game, nabbing three steals to go with nine points and nine rebounds while limiting his turnovers to just two.
And with the FIBA Asia Cup slated to start July 12, Tamayo is just delighted to enter the tournament coming off a win, a much-needed one after three straight losses — two against Korea in friendlies and one against New Zealand.
“Masaya, kasi tatlong sunod na talo kami eh. Siyempre, marami pa kaming kailangan i-improve as a team pero masaya pa rin kasi kahit anong sabihin, panalo pa rin.”