Batang Gilas first-timer Carl Tamayo ready to take spotlight in World Cup

MANILA, Philippines – There’s a first time for everything, and National University (NU) Bullpups big man Carl Tamayo is ready for the challenge.

After leaving the Adamson University (AdU) Baby Falcons where he won the UAAP Season 78 Rookie of the Year Award, the versatile 6-foot-7 youngster is finally suiting up for the Batang Gilas squad, just in time for the FIBA U17 World Cup in Argentina starting June 30.

Siyempre malaking bagay sa akin to experience the World Cup,” he said after a send-off dinner in Ortigas on Monday, June 18. “Siyempre madadala ko ‘yun habambuhay, [yung] experience nang paglalaro namin. Malaking bagay sa akin sa ganitong edad na makakapaglaro ako sa ganung klaseng event.”

(“Of course, it’s a big thing for me to experience the World Cup. It’s an experience I’d carry for life, the experience of us playing together. It’s a big thing for me that at my age, I can play in that kind of event.”)

While this is his first time with the Batang Gilas, Tamayo is no stranger, however, to playing alongside the country’s best young prospects, as he has already played with the Gilas 2023 cadets bannered by Kobe Paras and Ricci Rivero in the FilOil Flying V Preseason Cup. Although the cadets limped out of contention with a 4-5 win-loss record, Tamayo showed promise in a loaded team for his display of exceptional mobility and shooting touch despite his big man frame and limited minutes.

In fact, he even led Gilas 2023 in scoring one time in a 70-91 blowout loss against the NCAA Champion San Beda University (SBU) Red Lions. Against the defense of the imposing star Donald Tankoua, Tamayo was a lone bright spot and dropped a team-high 13 points, stumping his post defenders with some three-pointers to boot.

At 6-foot-7, Tamayo is in the perfect height range to play not one, but three positions: center, power forward and small forward. And he is in the process of mastering all of them for the World Cup.

Big man ako, pero ngayon wino-work on ko naman yung pagiging 3 (SF) ko,” he said. “Mga handles ko, ganun. Siyempre, wino-work on ko yun.” (“I’m a big man, but right now I’m working on being a 3. I’ll work on my handles, stuff like that.”)

Speaking of 3, being with NU, the 2023 cadets and Batang Gilas means that there are 3 team practices at any given time for Tamayo to power through. But like the true image of a cadet, he soldiered on and just honed his craft.

Nung una, sobrang hirap,” he admitted. “Kasi may practice sa school namin. Priority rin namin yung school namin kung saan kami nag-iimprove bago kami dumating [sa Gilas]. Halos three times a day yung practice ko. Motivation ko lang na pagdating sa World Cup ay makakatulong ako sa team. Yung ine-expect nila sa akin, magagawa ko.”

(“It was difficult at first, because we had practice in school. We prioritize our school because that’s where we improve before we land in Gilas. I had practice at least three times a day. My only motivation is that when I get to the World Cup, I can help out the team and I can deliver well on their expectations from me.”)

Batang Gilas’ primary backer Ronald Mascarinas said that this 2018 team is the strongest ever fielded, and with kids here having work ethic like Tamayo has, it’s certainly about to translate into results out west in Argentina. –