Carl Tamayo, Kai Sotto rekindle ‘fun’ rivalry in Japan B.League
MANILA, Philippines—Carl Tamayo is excited to face his former high school rival Kai Sotto and other Filipino players once he begins his professional career with the Ryukyu Golden Kings in the 2022-23 B.League season.
Tamayo and Sotto, arguably the top young players in the country, are slated for a much-anticipated clash on March 8, their first clash since their UAAP juniors days, when the Golden Kings battle the Hiroshima Dragonflies. The two, who have also been teammates at Gilas Pilipinas, are scheduled for two more meetings on May 6 and 7.
“It will be fun and it’ll be exciting seeing Kai and me playing in the pro league at the same time,” said Tamayo during his introductory press conference on Thursday. “We started playing as young players, we started in the youth team in the Philippines and now we’re playing in the B. League playing against each other.”
The young big men brought the best out of each other in their back-to-back UAAP juniors Finals clashes in 2018 and 2019. Sotto emerged as the Finals MVP after leading Ateneo past Tamayo and Nazareth School to win the Season 80 title.
Tamayo then turned things around the following season, winning Finals MVP as Nazareth School swept Season MVP Sotto and Ateneo.
The two teamed up in the Philippine youth and senior’s basketball team and went through different paths after high school with Tamayo playing for UP for two seasons and helping the school claim a historic Season 84 championship last May and Sotto suiting up for the Adelaide 36ers in Australia’s National Basketball League for a couple of seasons as he continued to chase his NBA dream.
Despite taking two different paths, the two somehow found themselves in Japan after Tamayo opted to forgo his remaining playing years with UP to join Ryukyu and Sotto reinforcing Hiroshima.
The Golden Kings are currently No. 2 in Western Conference with a 29-9 record, followed by the Dragonflies, who hold a 28-10 card.
Besides facing Sotto, Tamayo is also excited to meet Shiga Lakes star Kiefer Ravena, who talked to him about playing in Japan, as well as other Filipino imports Thirdy Ravena of the San-En NeoPhoenix, Bobby Ray Parks Jr. of the Nagoya Diamond Dolphins, Dwight Ramos of Levanga Hokkaido, and Matthew Wright of Kyoto Hannaryz.
“For all the Filipinos playing in the B. League, those are people that inspired a lot of basketball players in the Philippines, you know, having the opportunity to play internationally it’s a great opportunity as a basketball player, as a Filipino,” Tamayo said.
“The Filipino players in B.League are my friends. They are my teammates on the national team so we talked a lot about the league and the teams. Kiefer Ravena is the one who talked to me a lot and advised me about the league and the culture in Japan. I think everyone’s happy they’re playing here in Japan. They had a great experience,” he added.
The 22-year-old Tamayo is glad that he will be living his dream to play in the international league after the Ryukyu Golden Kings gave him an opportunity as their Asian import.
“Every basketball player, if you have the opportunity to play internationally, of course, it’s everyone’s dream, especially in the Philippines,” he said. “I look forward to it. And as a young player, having this exposure against top-level players is good for me. I will learn a lot to be able to help the team.”