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    Are Tamayo, fellow Gilas '23 for '23' bigs living up to expectations?

    Aug 2, 2020

    [Editor's Note: Last of a three-part series]

    WITH an eye on the future, Chot Reyes envisioned putting together the tallest Philippine team ever come the 2023 Fiba World Cup.

    Although height, or the lack of it, has always been an issue for Gilas Pilipinas, the influx of young big men has raised hope that such won't be a problem for the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) in a half-decade's time.

    The youth team has enjoyed that luxury, and Reyes sure wanted that same manpower for the seniors team - as evidenced by the abundance of frontcourt players he had at his disposal.

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    Unfortunately, the brawl with Australia happened, and following Reyes' departure the Gilas '23 for 2023' pool he painstakingly put together was disbanded.

    Yet it's not the end of the road for some of them, with a number of those names still in contention to one day represent the Philippines in international competitions.

    Spin.ph has decided to revisit that "23-for-2023" list and see where those players are now.

    To end this trilogy, we look at how the bigs in the pool developed since the disbandment.

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    Kai Sotto

    Sotto has long been considered as the Philippines' next great hope, not just for Gilas Pilipinas but also for our dream of seeing a homegrown player in the NBA.

    Only 16 years old when the list was first unveiled, the son of 12-year PBA veteran Ervin looked on the verge of greatness despite still suiting up for Ateneo's juniors team then.

    After his selection, he anchored the Blue Eaglets to the UAAP Season 80 title, where he was named as the Finals MVP. The 7-foot-2 beanpole continued to develop his game and was hailed as the season MVP the next campaign.

    It was only a matter of time before Sotto spread his wings overseas, moving to the US to develop his game in The Skill Factory in Atlanta as a number of European clubs and colleges in the US tried to recruit him.

    He never forgot his roots, though, as he bannered Gilas Youth in the 2019 Fiba Under-19 World Cup in Heraklion, Greece, where he posted averages of 11.7 points on a 53-percent shooting, on top of 7.9 rebounds, 3.1 blocks, and 2.0 assists.

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    Sotto has since committed to the NBA G League select team, where he'll team up with top US prospect Jalen Green.

    Isaac Go

    Go was so calm and composed that it was easy to overlook his contributions for Ateneo.

    But the timid big man is as clutch as they come, fearless to hit the big shots as he was a key part of the Blue Eagles' three-peat drive in the UAAP - one that his numbers don't quite show.

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    Go captured the MVP honors in the 2019 PBA D-League Aspirants' Cup for Cignal-Ateneo yet continued to take the backseat in the ensuing UAAP Season 82, embracing the role of a sage veteran for the Blue Eagles as seen in his measly numbers of 4.2 points and 3.1 rebounds.

    The 6-foot-8 banger is also one of the most intelligent players out there, which made it no surprise that Columbian took him at No. 1 overall in the 2019 PBA Rookie Draft's special Gilas round.

    He did play in the Philippines' 100-70 win over Indonesia in the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup qualifiers last February, happy to do the dirty work as he hauled down seven rebounds in his seven minutes of play.

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    Abu Tratter

    After graduating from La Salle, Tratter was looking to establish himself in the pro league when he got shortlisted in Reyes' cadet list.

    He immediately got a taste of the action in the second window of the 2019 Fiba World Cup Asian qualifiers, scoring two points in three minutes of play against Australia in Melbourne back in February 2018.

    The 6-foot-7 center also played for the Gilas cadets team in the Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup that summer, before he eventually declared for the 2018 PBA Rookie Draft. NLEX picked him at seven in the proceedings but quickly shipped him to Blackwater.

    Midway through his neophyte season, Tratter was once again on the move, this time being dealt to Alaska. He logged a solid campaign, averaging 8.7 points on a 48-percent shooting, to go with 5.2 rebounds to make it to the All-Rookie Team.

    Tratter did get another shot to represent the country as he was included in the revamped Gilas pool. He wound up with five points and three rebounds in 10 minutes of play in the Fiba Asia qualifier against Indonesia.

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    AJ Edu

    The Cyprus-born Fil-Brit center has long been seen as a foundational talent for Gilas Pilipinas and has been an able partner for Sotto at Gilas Youth.

    And 2018 was an eventful year for the 6-foot-11. Not only was he shortlisted for Reyes' cadets team, but he also committed to the University of Toledo.

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    In his freshman year, he tallied 3.6 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.7 blocks in 14.3 minutes for the Rockets to earn his place in the Mid-American Conference All-Freshman Team.

    Edu was looked at as a defensive demon for the future, and the SBP certainly hoped that when it flew to the 2019 Fiba Under-19 World Cup. Unfortunately, two minutes into the tournament, he tore the ACL in his right knee and missed the rest of the tilt.

    He remains on his way to recovery, spending his time inside the Toledo campus in Ohio.

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    Carl Tamayo

    Tamayo has presented himself as a formidable foe for Sotto in the UAAP high school wars, and he certainly showed his worth.

    The 6-foot-7 big man was one of the driving forces for National University-Nazareth School and was a big reason for its back-to-back championship runs.

    This past UAAP Season 82, Tamayo was a force to be reckoned with as he fired 12.6 points and 10.4 rebounds in the Bullpups' perfect season, where he was named as the Finals MVP to wrap up his high school career.

    He has also played for Gilas Youth, nabbing 12.3 points and 6.1 boards in the 2019 Fiba Under-19 World Cup.

    Tamayo has since committed to University of the Philippines, giving the Fighting Maroons their big man of the future.

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    Kemark Carino

    Although his collegiate career started off flat in Ateneo, Carino found a home in San Beda where he's had a chance to develop his game by learning behind Nigerian center Donald Tankoua.

    The 6-foot-9 center may have only averaged 2.0 points and 1.4 rebounds on 5.4 minutes this past NCAA Season 95, but he showed immense promise when he got the chance.

    Carino played big for the Red Lions in the Finals against Letran, banging bodies with the likes of Larry Muyang, Ato Ular, and Jeo Ambohot.

    Although that ended in a bridesmaid finish for San Beda, Carino gave everyone a glimpse of what he could do for the Mendiola side moving forward.

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    Will Gozum

    Gozum was just named MVP in the NCAA Season 93 juniors division back in 2017 when he was named to the pool. The 6-foot-6 banger was a bluechip recruit and committed to University of the Philippines for college.

    However, he was sparingly used in his two seasons with the Fighting Maroons and only logged two minutes in three games this past UAAP Season 82. Gozum has since transferred to St. Benilde in a bid to reboot his college career.

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    Troy Rike

    Rike is one of the most intriguing choices in Reyes' list as the Fil-Am was coming off a four-year run in Wake Forest. The 6-foot-8 center introduced himself as a member of the Gilas cadets team in the 2018 Filoil Flying V Preseason Cup.

    He then played for a year in National University, nabbing 6.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists in his 20 minutes of play back in UAAP Season 80. He was actually a reserve in the Gilas side that figured in the 2018 brawl against Australia.

    Rike has since taken his act to the halfcourt game as one of the top players in the Chooks-to-Go Pilipinas 3x3 League, first for Pasig and now with Basilan. Currently the No. 5 ranked player in the Philippines, he is set to turn pro for 3x3 basketball.


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