CARL Tamayo heard Evan Nelle's pre-tournament prediction that La Salle - not defending champion University of the Philippines and not runner-up Ateneo - is the No. 1 team heading to the UAAP Season 85 wars.
Last season's Rookie of the Year would rather let his game do the talking for him and the Fighting Maroons.
"Salita nila 'yun. Paniniwala nila yun and we respect that," he said. "Pero alam namin kung saan kami nakalugar. Alam namin ano [ang] kaya ng team namin. Kung ano tingin nila sa team nila, nirerespeto namin yun. Pero may sarili kaming paniniwala."
Tamayo later backed up his words and put together a monster stats line of 18 points, 19 rebounds, two assists, and two steals to lead UP to a 72-69 escape against La Salle on Saturday to kickstart the Maroons' title-retention bid.
Taking over late, the Gilas Pilipinas forward nailed a tough pullup jumper in the final 1:17 before icing the game with a pair of free throws in the last 4.0 seconds.
Yet Tamayo talked about it as if it was just another day in the office, saying, "Naglaro lang naman kami. Ginawa lang namin yung dapat naming gawin at salamat sa Diyos, nakuha namin yung panalo."
Tamayo also brushed off any notion that he gets an added skip in his step whenever facing La Salle, much like how he helped the Maroons pull off an amazing comeback against the Green Archers in Game Two of the UAAP Season 84 Final Four just five months ago.
This win felt eerily reminiscent as the Diliman side clawed back from a 10-point first half hole.
"Hindi naman about La Salle. Siguro bawat game naman ganoon," he said.
For Tamayo, the fightback is proof of the solid foundation that UP is building under coach Goldwin Monteverde.
"Na-feel ko lang yung team is kailangan may mag-step up, and yung culture na bini-build namin na walang bibitaw, talagang pinaninindigan namin. Ina-apply naman di lang sa basketball kundi sa buhay namin.
"Yun lang naman iniisip ko nung lamang sila, na hangga’t di pa tapos yung oras, may tsansa pa kaming manalo. Proud ako sa teammates ko na wala talagang bumitaw, lumaban talaga hanggang dulo."
Still, this game proved to Tamayo and the rest of the Fighting Maroons that their road to back-to-back crowns will not be easy.
"Siguro nag-show sa game na maraming kailangang i-improve. Yung consistency namin kailangan mabago," he said. "I think marami kaming natutunan sa game na madala namin. Simula pa lang nung season eh, so yung mga natutunan namin ngayon, madadala namin hanggang matapos yung liga."