MANILA, Philippines – The UP Fighting Maroons are heading to their first title defense season in three decades as the UAAP Season 85 men’s basketball tournament tips off on Saturday, October 1, at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Having toppled the mighty Ateneo dynasty just four months prior, the defending champions will have to endure not only the shortest turnaround for any title-winning team in league history, but also a bigger target on their backs that comes with the privilege of being at the top.
All these factors are more than enough for UP star Carl Tamayo to just focus on helping the Maroons retain their first title since 1986, and block any outside noise, including all talk of individual awards.
At the Season 85 media conference at the Mall of Asia Arena on Wednesday, September 28, Tamayo and reigning MVP Ange Kouame were the top picks of UAAP coaches when asked about their early MVP candidates for the new season.
However, the 21-year-old Tamayo – already a Mythical Five member and Rookie of the Year – is not interested in any more hardware that will only have his name on it.
“I think, the MVP, that’s something I never thought about since I got to the league,” the former UAAP juniors Finals MVP said in Filipino.
“Basketball is a team game. I’m just going to work hard, play hard, and try to help the team to win every game.”
Regardless of how little he thinks about individual awards, however, Tamayo will certainly have the solo spotlight on him all season long as every team’s game plan zeroes in on trying to stop his fast-growing skill set on both ends of the floor.
But the Gilas Pilipinas stalwart is confident that whatever happens, his teammates will have his back the same way he will have theirs.
“This is not about me. Sixteen of us will play this upcoming season. I’ll do whatever I can for the team with whatever role is given to me. It might be rebounding or defense. That’s what I’ll do,” Tamayo said.
“We’ve already realized what it takes to be a champion with the hard work and sacrifices we put in the bubble. We’ve seen what we need to do to get the title. We know our sacrifices will bear fruit.”