CARL Tamayo has proven himself over the past few years as one of the top young centers in the high school level during his time at National University-Nazareth School and with the Gilas Pilipinas Youth team.
Yet somehow, the name and face of the two-time UAAP Juniors Finals MVP for the Bullpups was somehow foreign to Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) program director Tab Baldwin. Until now.
It wasn't until Tamayo came to the Gilas Pilipinas camp at Inspire Sports Academy in Calamba, Laguna that the American-Kiwi mentor had his first-hand look at the University of the Philippines commit.
"Strangely enough, I've had very limited exposure to Carl Tamayo," the concurrent Ateneo mentor told Hoops Life. "My first impression when he walked in was, 'Who is this guy? Where did we find a 6-8 guy that I don’t know who he is?' Cause I was expecting Carl to walk in and be like 6-5 or 6-6, but he's clearly 6-8. And I said, 'Why doesn't he have an Ateneo gear on?'"
"So I quickly ran over to him as a fanboy would and introduced myself. I said, 'Who are you?' and he goes, 'Coach, I’m Carl. Nice to see you.' I was really impressed just when he walked in the room."
From there, Tamayo is one player the former Gilas Pilipinas coach will never forget.
More than Tamayo's physical gifts, it was his on-court demeanor which turned Baldwin from a stranger to a believer. It wasn't just the Cebuano's smarts, shooting, rebounding, or passing, but rather, his fearless attitude despite being one of the youngest in the pool.
"When Carl went out on the court, I saw him immediately being confrontational, immediately being a bit of an antagonist. I fell in love with the kid for that reason alone. He wanted a piece of everybody," Baldwin said with a chuckle.
"In an environment where he didn't have any natural teammates, he didn’t have anybody from NU that was his buddy, he immediately showed his competitive side. Let’s say Isaac Go set an illegal screen on one of his teammates, he was gonna get a piece of Isaac shortly thereafter. I'm over there on the sideline looking for somebody to tell how much I love this kid."
In that short time alone, Tamayo completely bucked the trend Baldwin saw with a lot of Filipino players.
"Coach Alton Lister and I were talking on the ride over here, talking about the fact that Filipinos are such a nice race of people and far too many of them carry that niceness from off the court on the court. It’s not that they’re not competitive, they are, and then they’re talented, and they want to win and all of that, but they are not made of that substance that they will do almost anything to win, generally speaking," he said.
"But I don’t think Carl is gonna back down from anybody when it comes to trying to get to his end goal on the basketball court. And I think that bodes extremely well for him, for any team that he plays for."
And Baldwin has no question on Tamayo being an asset to the national team moving forward, and a clear headache for him once they cross paths when Ateneo and UP take on each other in the UAAP.
"He’s a very, very fine player and has a huge upside, and he's gonna be a problem for all of his opponents," he said.