THE PAST weekend had been quite an interesting show for Filipino fans keeping an eye on the Japan B.League. In the latest Pinoy vs. Pinoy faceoff that's becoming a regular fixture, Thirdy Ravena and Kobe Paras met back-to-back games, splitting the difference with their teams San-En NeoPhoenix (2-2) and Niigata Albirex BB (2-2).
The jam-packed weekend saw the former University of the Philippines forward record 21 markers on 8-for-16 shooting, as well as five rebounds, two steals, two assists, and two blocks as Niigata took first blood on their first game, 77-64.
Meanwhile, NeoPhoenix made it even the following day, walking off with a 85-82 win, thanks to the 13 points on 5-for-13 shooting, nine boards, two dimes, a steal and a block done by the Ateneo stalwart. Ravena is by far his team's best shooter (35 percent shooting on 3s on team-high 5.0 attempts).
They might be coming off the opposite sides of the court, but prior to their Japan arrival, their games were honed by one man, with whom they'd been working out with relentlessly before they departed for the 2021-22 season.
It's coach Jolo Tamayo of True Focus Basketball.
What is True Focus?
True Focus is an elite development coaching system solely manned by the 23-year-old Tamayo.
For each of his clients, no program is the same. Each one is personalized based on the unique needs of the athlete.
Jolo Tamayo has been training these young guns for some time now. Ravena has been under his guidance for two years and counting. Meanwhile, Paras got started in mid-2020 — pandemic season, so their sessions went virtual.
Tamayo is a former high school NCAA player who suited up for the Letran Squires in seasons 91 to 93. He was also lined up for the school's Team B in the seniors.
Tamayo trained under the watch of coach Mavrick Bautista for roughly a year, from 2018 to 2019.
"The credit is all due to coach Mav. I'm really grateful for him for the mentality he built within me. Up to this day, na-apply ko siya," he said.
Back then, he was a 5-foot-7 guard fueled by the grit and the grind, wanting to better himself in basketball. When his mentorship with Bautista ended, that's when it all began for True Focus.
"Nag-start lang ako, kasi I needed to train on my own. Hindi ko alam gagawin ko so nanood lang ako ng mga videos online, tapos gumawa ako ng plan for myself, until napapansin ko, nagkakaroon na ako ng minutes sa Letran," he shared. "Tinuloy-tuloy ko lang."
While at it, Tamayo found himself in a middle of a financial crisis, and that's when it occured to him to start sharing the knowledge that he'd discovered.
"Student lang ako, naghahanap ako ng source of income para mabayaran 'yung kotse na ipinamana sakin before," he said. "So nagsimula ako magturo sa mga bata nang libre, sa mga local covered court lang sa Paranaque, una isa lang, tapos dumalawa hanggang umabot na sa 14 'yung mga batang tinuturuan ko."
He tapped his friend Rafi Silerio's expertise to build the management side of a burgeoning business.
"Kaibigan ko si Rafi," Tamayo explained. "Lagi niya ako binibigyan ng magagandang advice, when it comes to handling this. So, he turned to my manager when I started my own brand, True Focus in late 2019."
Word of mouth helps build True Focus
Word started spreading about this new basketball trainer. Tamayo started getting more clients, and then Silerio introduced him to Thirdy Ravena, who that time, was fresh off a three-peat championship with the Ateneo Blue Eagles.
"Inulit ko sa kanya, ha? Sigurado ka? Thirdy Ravena? Napapanood ko lang sa TV yon. Pero sabi niya nag-schedule daw siya ng workout with him. Kabado ako pero syempre pumunta ako," he said.
They did their first session in a private gym in Mandaluyong.
"Ang swerte ko naman for this chance, sana masundan pa," he bared. "Yan iniisip ko."
And it happened.
It was already the last week of December, holiday season, when Thirdy requested for one more workout. They went around several gyms, but to their bad luck, none was open.
"Hiyang-hiya ako kay Thirdy. Di ko alam na sarado pala gyms kasi nga holiday. Pero bigla siyang nagsabi, sige mag-park na lang tayo tapos magtraining tayo dito sa tabi ng kotse," he recalled. "At dun ko nakita gaano niya kagusto, at kung gaano niya ibinigay ang tiwala niya sakin."
"Nag-tuloy-tuloy lang," Tamayo continued. "Everything started with Thirdy."
Focusing on the end goal
From there, he began gaining more clients, from both amateur and pro ranks. A lot of people started consulting him for mentorship.
Take note that Tamayo was only 21 at the time.
In fact, most of the people who were DMing him and inquiring about his services were older than he was, but he never felt that he was the younger one.
"Tinutulungan ko lang mga nagtiwala sa akin, siguro naramdaman din nila na may pake talaga ako sa kanila. Cause it's no longer just client-mentor relationship, they've become my best of friends," he said.
"They're older but the respect they give me is different. We showed unmatched commitment to each other, and to basketball."
Tamayo has also long accepted that he may have to give up his dream of being a player right now. He's switching switch his focus on basketball mentorship, which has propelled him to heights he never imagined.
Aside from the Ravena bros and Paras, he's currently training PBA players like Jeron Teng, Russell Escoto, Baser Amer, Jerrick Balanza, as well as college stars Evan Nelle, Brent Paraiso, and Sam Fernandez.
"For them to trust me with the improvement of their very profession in life? That's big, and I'm blessed to be in this position," he said.
With this talent-ladden lineup of clients, his daily schedule isn't a joke. He's forced to eat his meals in between workouts. If he could add more hours to the day, he would.
At 3:30 a.m. he begins training in Rizal, then he drives to the south to train another client from 7 a.m. to just after lunch. Then, he drives to Mandaluyong to workout with another from 2 to 6 p.m., before heading to Marikina for one more session until 10 p.m.
But he's still keeping his focus on bigger things to come.
"Malayo pa ang gusto kong marating. I'm still super hungy for improvement, and I'm gonna keep on building that with people. Alagaan ang mga tao sa paligid mo as much as you care about your life is the key," he explained.
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