Earmarked as one of, if not the best pound-for-pound prospect in his class, Carl Tamayo lives life in a pressure-cooker. A whirlwind of hype trains and endless comparisons is no environment for any normal athlete his age, but one look at this burgeoning star is enough to know that his shoulders are broad enough to bear that load and his feet won’t wander too far from the ground.
Maybe the most exciting thing about Carl as a player is that his game may very well morph into the weapon that ends the war between snooty, old basketball heads and future-forward, unicorn-worshipping keyboard warriors.
The young Bullpup is built like a throwback big but possesses a game that’s designed for tomorrow. He’s a stocky 6’7” space-eater with a post-up repertoire that would make dads and uncles beam with pride and a rangy jumper straight from a Kevin Love jump-shot package on NBA 2K.
And he’s already making waves. In his debut season in the UAAP Juniors Division, he took home Rookie of the Year playing for Adamson University. Though Tamayo struggled with nagging ankle injuries since he became a Bullpup the year after, he began to truly come into his own last season.
Headlining a stacked NU roster en route to a dominant 13-1 season, he went on to face off against the consensus Golden Boy of Philippine hoops, Kai Sotto, in the Finals. In a showcase of the two best young bigs in the country, Tamayo led a sweep of defending champions Ateneo and was crowned Finals MVP.
For all his accolades, Carl remains impressively humble. “Nagtulungan lang kami ng teammates ko. Siguro pagkataon na bumagsak ang laro sa akin, pero at the end of the day buong grupo kami nagtulungan para makuha ang championship. Hindi lang naman becuase nakuha ko ang MVP, ako yung nagdala ng team. Dahil sa teammates ko nakuha iyon,” he said.
His maturity goes far beyond his play between the lines, and it shows in the way he lights up when he talks about those helping him along the journey. “Si Coach (Goldwyn Monteverde) kasi trained us hindi lang as teammates pero as a brotherhood on and off the court. Even na pag hiwalay-hiwalay na kami, pagbalik namin sa time na ito, ang season na ito, alam namin na magkakapatid kami,” said Carl.
That’s the x-factor with him. Tamayo’s demeanor, maybe even more than his raw talent, is going to be his biggest asset on the way to the summit of national basketball. It’s probably not even fair to call him a kid. His focus on getting better and refusal to get ahead of himself is something you’d expect from an older head, not a DOTA 2-loving 18 year-old.
“Discipline talaga tsaka yung attitude on and off the court. Training lang ako nang maayos. Darating naman tayo doon kung papalayain tayo ng Diyos. Basta ngayon stay present lang ako.”
Tagging young athletes as future stars is a heavy claim to make, but Carl’s young shoulders can bear a whole lot more.
The SLAM Rising Stars Classic will be held on March 31, 7PM to 9PM, at the Gatorade Hoops Center in Mandaluyong. The game will be aired on ABS-CBN Sports via livestream.