This pandemic hasn’t been kind to the sports industry.
From suspended seasons to various programs around the country being forced to close, the pandemic has forced many of us to rethink our priorities when it comes consuming sport. It’s been difficult for the basketball fan, but it’s been especially challenging for athletes, coaches, and management. Security, stability, and a promise of a better tomorrow are practically off the table. Survival is already enough for an industry that’s so close to our hearts.
That’s why when news of the commitment of Carl Tamayo and Gerry Abadiano to the UP Fighting Maroons surfaced on social media, it was met with shock. Teams had been recruiting throughout the pandemic – La Salle’s bevy of gritty role players and UST’s Army of Mayhem come into mind – but no team had made a splash as big as the Fighting Maroons. UP pulled off a heist because these two players were expected to stay with Coach Goldwyn in NU, and they’re arguably two of the top five high school prospects in the whole country.
We’ll sweep the former under the rug for the meantime. For now, let’s talk about the latter.
Tamayo and Abadiano’s Bullpups dominated the High School basketball scene so much that it became detrimental to their stocks as individual prospects. Many knew they were good, but their dominance as one unit made it so difficult to appreciate their respective greatness as basketball players. This is especially evident for Tamayo, who despite his two Finals MVPs in the Juniors Division, still comes off as a mystery rather than a proven prospect.
That’s no fault of Tamayo; it’s simply a result of the circumstances he was put in. While he didn’t rack up individual honors outside of his excellence in the championship rounds of the UAAP, he was often the most talented player when he chose to assert himself. Standing at 6’8” with a wide frame that screams college-ready, Tamayo’s greatness was centered around his excellence at scoring the basketball.
A couple of years ago when he was still playing with the Adamson Baby Falcons, Tamayo only showed glimpses of excellent footwork in the post. He’s turned those flashes into straight-up death beams. He arguably has the most polished post game we’ve ever seen out of a High School big man this past decade. He can comfortably attack from both shoulders and he possesses great balance when scoring off fade aways. He utilizes fakes extremely well and he always showcases patience even in tight situations down low.
Tamayo’s also built for the modern game thanks to his solid shooting stroke. You’ll see him score off fake one-dribble pull-ups as if he was Beau Belga, while also being used a lot off pick and rolls. He’s always been great at finding open spots with these types of actions, but life wouldn’t have been as easy for him if it weren’t for his buddy, Gerry Abadiano.
The steady yin to the explosive yang of his backcourt mate Terrence Fortea, Abadiano is the kind of point guard any basketball team would want in any era. He has the scoring chops you expect out of modern guards, but he also has the patience and stability we’re used to out of more traditional playmakers.
His ability to create in the pick and roll is a joy to watch. He can pull-up from both elbows and he can capably break a defender down one on one. His playmaking is just as impressive, as he utilizes strong drives and sharp crossovers to trick defenders into overcommitting to him.
This was in full display during his stint with the Batang Gilas U16 and U18 teams. He wasn’t the most glamorous name among the list of guards but he was easily the most consistent. His stable production on both ends of the floor pushed coaches Mike Oliver and Sandy Arespacochaga into giving him heavy minutes. It may have not been the popular choice among basketball fans but when looking at it objectively, playing Abadiano big minutes was certainly the correct choice.
It’s easy to understand why the acquisition of Abadiano and Tamayo is such a big deal to the UP community. Their talent is a big deal, but more than their level of talent, it’s the type of talent that they’re bringing to the table. They aren’t only good. They also happen to be young, proven winners; something UP hasn’t picked up from High School level in a very long time.
That’s not to demean any of UP’s past recruits such as the Gomez de Liaño brothers, Ricci Rivero, or even Kobe Paras. But Abadiano and Tamayo bring to the table two championships from the UAAP, an endless list of titles from other High School leagues, and an attitude that was molded by one these best High School coaches of all time in Coach Monteverde.
To put it straight, iba ang batang inalagaan ni Goldwyn. Abadiano and Tamayo bring a level of discipline and attention to detail that quite frankly, most High School players don’t have. They’re excellent basketball players but they also recognize the need to put in work in the gym. As good as Tamayo’s footwork is and as savvy as Abadiano’s scoring may be, that doesn’t happen without the values that were taught to them by their High School coach.
By bidding their high school coach farewell, Abadiano and Tamayo bring an incredible culture to the growing program of the Fighting Maroons. This is something UP hasn’t had before and its community should be ready to welcome these two prospects with open arms. They’re getting talent, discipline and hustle of two championship-level players for five years.
The Fighting Maroons aren’t just celebrating the survival of their program. UP hit the jackpot by acquiring stability, security, and excellence with Abadiano and Tamayo. It doesn’t automatically ensure a championship, but it’s a good step towards building something great for the foreseeable future.