Way back in 1986, a burly yet athletic young big man led by the name of Benjie Paras burst onto the scene, won the Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player trophies, and led the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons to the UAAP title.

Fast forward to 2022 and another young big man may just be treading a similar path to greatness. Cebuano Carl Tamayo—this year’s Rookie of the Year—has definitely seized the team to be his own with one impactful performance after another.

And although the 6-foot-7 center from Talisay City, Cebu, was held in check by Ateneo’s defense in the penultimate Game Three, Tamayo contributed six points, six rebounds, five assists, and two steals to help UP emerge victorious, 72-69, and end their 36-year title drought.

“Sobrang sarap kase siyempre, pinaghirapan namin ‘to eh,” said Tamayo.

Although the Fighting Maroons were loaded with talent, the road to the title was an uphill climb. Entrenched as the second seed in the Final Four, UP saw its campaign threatened by a relentless De La Salle University squad that led by double-figures in their do-or-die rubbermatch. The Maroons pushed through that and then had to overcome the ultimate test in the reigning champions Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles.

“Yung puso sa laro, yung puso sa ensayo, yun lang talaga. Pinanindigan namin na walang bibitaw kahit ano mangyari. Yung mga teammate namin, alam namin na sa likod namin sila. Magkamali kami o maganda yung ginawa namin, alam ko nandiyan sila,” added Tamayo, who put up stellar averages of 11.33 points, 9.0 rebounds, 3.0 steals, and 1.0 blocks in the finals.

UP had all the right answers in Game One, recovering in the endgame to force overtime and eventually prevail, 81-74. However, Ateneo responded like champions and won Game Two, 69-66, to force the penultimate Game Three. Through it all, Tamayo and the rest of the Maroons had to practice patience.

“Siyempre tulad nga ng sabi ko, hindi naman lahat makukuha nang madali. Binigay ni God itong situation na ‘to na natalo kami game two para mag-learn. Para pagdating ng game three, yun na-learn namin, in-apply namin,” shared the 21-year-old.

“Talagang walang bumitaw and then after 36 years, nakuha namin ang championship ulit para sa UP. Sobrang blessed kami. Sobrang binigay sa amin ni God ‘to,” gleefully said Tamayo.