Gilas Pilipinas team captain Kiefer Ravena is one of the fiercest competitors that Philippine basketball has ever seen.
And that’s why he knows if a player is passionate enough when he sees them.
And he clearly saw something when he first shared the court with UP-commit Carl Tamayo in Gilas Pilipinas’ first practice together with the 23 for 2023 cadets two years ago — February 5, 2018 to be exact.
In an episode of Tiebreaker Vodcasts’ The Prospects Pod, presented by SMART and supported by Chris Sports, Ravena talked about his first impression on the former NSNU Bullpup.
“’Yung first impression ko kay Carl, napapanood ko na kasi siya sa laro. Pero unang nakasama ko talaga si Carl, ito ata ‘yung unang sinabi yung 23 for 23. Kasama siya don tapos ‘yun ‘yung unang practice na magkasama ‘yung matatanda pati ‘yung mga bata,” shared Ravena about a then-17 year old Tamayo.
“Nandoon siya pumupunta, tapos may nira-run na system. Si Coach Chot [Reyes] pa yata ‘yun tapos siyempre, wala pa naman team noon, wala pang first five, wala pa ‘yung lima na laging… Si Carl, lagi siyang sumasama doon sa pro group. Gusto niya lagi na kasama siya doon sa unang lima, so sinasabayan niya sila June Mar [Fajardo], sila Japeth [Aguilar], sila Jayson [Castro], sinasabayan niya nung una.”
Upon seeing the attitude of Tamayo — who was one of the youngest members of the program at the time, alongside Kai Sotto — Ravena knew that there would only be good things ahead in the 6-foot-8 big man’s career.
And he felt most impressed with the young Tamayo’s willingness to rough it up with PBA pros.
“Parang ako, sa isip ko, okay, tapang ‘tong batang ‘to, kasi wala naman nagsasabi [pero] nagvo-volunteer siya kaagad. So first impression ko parang sabi ko sa kanya, ‘Malayo mararating ng batang ‘to!’
“Kasi ‘yun nga, wala naman siyang pake kung bago siya. Unang practice palang ‘yun na kakasalang niya pa lang sa Gilas, pero ganon na kaagad ‘yung approach niya so sabi ko, ‘Okay tong batang ‘to!’,” said Ravena.
True enough, Tamayo proved to be an unstoppable force for NSNU after his stint with the Gilas Cadets in the 2018 Filoil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup.
He became one of the center pieces of the Goldwin Monterverde-coached Bullpups, towing the squad to a back-to-back UAAP juniors title while also winning the Finals MVP in the second victory.
Tamayo was also a part of the Gilas Pilipinas Youth squad that represented the flag in the 2019 FIBA Under-19 World Cup in Greece.
Now, the versatile big man will be bringing his competitive spirit to Diliman as he will be suiting up for University of the Philippines come UAAP Season 83.