It seems like we’re entering a special time for Filipino big men. Not only do we have Kai Sotto and AJ Edu plying their trades in the US, but we’ve got two up-and-coming players who’ve made loud noises in the UAAP Juniors the past few years.
What’s crazy is that the two have been on the same team, forming a formidable frontcourt tandem at Nazareth School-National University.
Of course, I’m talking about Kevin Quiambao and Carl Tamayo.
The last UAAP season was just another showcase of how good these two guys are, with Quiambao being part of the Mythical Team and Tamayo taking home the Finals MVP trophy. This placed both players in the top-three of the NBTC UAAP Rankings and you could argue they should have gone 1-2 in any order.
What’s amazing to me is how these two players were able to develop into game-changing prospects on the same team. Moreover, it’s one thing to shine with another star when you’re playing different positions, it’s a completely different challenge when you’re on the same front line.
I guess it’s true what they say – iron sharpens iron.
If you’ve watched the Bullpups games, you’d see that Quiambao and Tamayo have drastically different games. It’s clear that Tamayo is a unique offensive talent while Kevin is more of a system-player on offense and thrives as the hub of their defense. I suppose that’s why they complement each other as well.
Let’s take a look at each of their games to see their strengths and what areas they can still improve in as they head onto college.
Watching Tamayo do work on offense and you’ll immediately see how talented he is. He’s 6-foot-7 with long arms, good handles, and clearly knows what he wants to do on the floor. This past season, he averaged 12.6 points and 10.4 rebounds per game in just over 21 minutes per game.
Coach Goldwyn Monteverde had Carl altering between the wing and big spots on their offense last year. In both roles, Tamayo had the green light to shoot coming off a pick and pop or from other kick-out passes.
Over the past year, it’s clear that working on his three-point shot was part of Tamayo’s plans. In Season 81, he shot 23.5-percent from three but only took 17 threes in 14 games (1.2 attempts per game. This past season, Tamayo took 50 attempts in 16 games, bringing his average three-point field goal attempts per game to over three.
While his percentages didn’t increase too much (26-percent from three), it seems that this was all part of Coach Gold’s development program for Carl to develop as a wing player for down the road. While he can be a pick & pop player as a big, he can also play on a big front line as a big wing, as he’s got the ability to put the ball on the floor to attack.
Playing on the perimeter is important for Tamayo’s near future, as he’ll now be playing with and against foreign-student athletes. The FSA will get about 25-30 minutes on any given night, giving fewer opportunities for other bigs. Tamayo being able to play on the perimeter allows Coach Gold to mix and match his lineups.
Imagine a front line of Gaye, Quiambao, and Tamayo next year – that’s huge!
One area that Carl can still improve on though is ball-handling. Yes, he can rebound and go coast-to-coast like in the clip above. But what happens when the game slows down? Can he attack his man off the dribble or use the pick and roll effectively?
Here we see that Tamayo isn’t comfortable yet using the ball screen, as he’s not a threat at all and no advantage was created.
But that’s okay – he’s still growing into his game and expanding his skill set. Truthfully, right now he’s most effective off the catch, in isolation or in post-up situations.
This is where Tamayo can be a major mismatch. Playing against a smaller team, put him at the three and let him go to work down low. Against a big team, play him as a four on the perimeter and attack off the dribble.
It helps a lot that his partner-in-crime doesn’t need the ball much to be effective. Quiambao is simply an efficient player who’s game shines more in a structured system.
He isn’t the type of player you can give the ball to and expect two points (not yet, at least). That didn’t stop him from dominating games though, as he averaged 12.3 points, 9.8 rebounds (including 4.0 offensive rebounds per game), and 1.4 blocks per game in just under 23 minutes a game.
Most of Quiambao’s points came from drop passes, offensive rebounds and running the floor.
The last few clips of Quiambao sprinting down the middle of the lane exemplifies who he is – a tireless, hard worker. There’s a reason why he’s moved up in stature over the last few years.
Being a hard worker is going to go along way in helping him round out his offensive game. One aspect that’s still work in progress is his outside shooting (3-of-17 from three last season).
The one encouraging thing is that he improved vastly from the free-throw line, going 60-percent (15-of-25) in Season 81 to 76-percent (22-of-29) last season. Free throws are normally a good indicator of how good someone can be at shooting, so there’s a good chance Quiambao will eventually be a decent perimeter shooter down the road.
Obviously, there are some things he does that can’t be measured via stats (although I beg to differ that analytics covers both quantitative and qualitative measures). Some of the things he does are talk and direct his teammates like he’s the point guard:
Or sprinting to help his teammates up:
This is what coaches love about Kevin’s game – he does the little things that make playing basketball fun.
You can also see his basketball IQ in how he plays. This is why teammates love to play with him.
Look at some of those passes – he looks like a seasoned pro out there!
It’s a read like this that show he’s aware of where people are on the floor. Kevin sees the plays happen before they do. This type of intelligence is a glimpse of the potential that he possesses.
Defensively, Tamayo is decent but has a long way to go before he can be called a stopper, especially at the college level.
He is not a shot-blocker, although he does use his long arms to challenge and alter shots. And while his long arms help him grab rebounds in track, it remains to be seen whether he can do the same against more explosive athletes at the next level.
The good thing for Carl is that because Coach Gold had him play the wing, he’s had some experience trying to guard perimeter players in high school. As expected, the results were mixed as there were instances where he was able to stay in front of his man but at other times got beat by quick, shiftier players.
This becomes a challenge in the UAAP, when Tamayo may end up guarding wings like Dwight Ramos, Renz Abando, or even a Kobe Paras. Can Tamayo stay in front of them without fouling or getting blown by?
What’s working in his favor is that he’s got long arms and is physical. Here are some clips of him willing to fight on the screen.
If needed, he can also switch on ball screens, as he would probably even have an easier time guarding a big.
How scary is that for a high school kid? Imagine having a 6-foot-7 wing on you, he switches off… and now you have Kevin Quiambao defending you?
Speaking of Quiambao on defense, this is an area where he can have a real impact on the game. While not the best athlete in terms of leaping ability, Quiambao is a willing help-side defender and provides solid rim protection, if not as a shot-blocker, but simply using his sheer size to prevent penetrators from getting to the rim.
One small detail that Kevin can improve on is to learn how to contest with his left hand. He almost always uses his right hand to go for a block and he ends up turning his body into the offense. This can lead to fouls. If he can go up vertically and contest with his left, it’ll help him avoid foul trouble and contest the shot even better.
Like Carl, Kevin is a mixed bag on the perimeter. He doesn’t have the best laterals, but he does try to make up for it in sheer will determination.
One great thing about playing for Coach Gold is that he didn’t allow Kevin to just sit back and play in a drop coverage. Coach Gold wanted Kevin at the level of the screen and even hard showing on certain angles.
Clearly, Kevin was also the hub of their defense and constantly telling his teammates what to do and where to go.
In this clip, Kevin is calling out the play and letting everyone – his teammates and his opponents – know where the ball is going and what will happen next. Communication is key for any defense and this will help earn Kevin minutes on the floor.
Keep in mind that the National University Bullpups were constantly playing in college-level pre-season tournaments and giving the business to these college teams. So they’re used to playing against college-level players and while the UAAP may be another level up, I’m sure they’ll be ready once the season rolls around.
The question is, will they pan out in the long term or not?
Will Tamayo put in the work and maximize his talents? Is he the next-coming of Jay Washington, who by the way, is a one-time PBA MVP?
And what about Kevin? High IQ, great feel for the game. Under the guidance of Coach Gold, is a player comparison to someone like Isaac Go a fair one?
Expectations are high for the two and that’s perfectly alright. These two young men are on the right track and are looking like the future for Filipino bigs.