When it comes to playing hoops, Far Eastern University (FEU) Tamaraw Mike Tolomia still marvels at the fact that he gets incentives to do something that he loves. “Nakakapag-aral kami for free. Mahal namin yung ginagawa namin, tapos may nakukuha pa kami,” he says with a grin.
The youngest in a brood of four boys, Mike cut his teeth on the backyard hoop, playing against his brothers as soon as he was able. “Lumaki na ako sa basketball, lahat na nang positions nalaro ko,” he says. He takes his shooting seriously, logging extra hours before and after team practice, claiming he needs to work on his midrange shots.
The shooting guard, who likes to think of the sidestep or step back as his signature move, doesn’t like to rest on his laurels. “Every game iniisip namin na kami ’yung underdog, na anytime puwedeng bumaliktad, na kaya kaming talunin,” he says. “Before a game, I leave the good things—the previous victories—behind. Every game is a new game,” he adds.
How does he feel about fame? “Hindi ko naiisip ’yung ganun, normal pa rin ako,” Mike says with a smile. He is currently in third year, majoring in Sports Recreation Management, but Tolomia hopes to graduate from college basketball to the professional arena.
His family doesn’t get to watch his games live because they are based in Zamboanga, but he keeps his mom close to him when playing—on his back, specifically. “My jersey number is 13. Gusto ko talaga 7, kasi birthday ’yun ng mom ko, pero meron na. Tapos birthday ko 6, meron na rin, so pinagsama ko na lang,” he explains.
Basketball and studies don’t leave him much free time, but when he does get it, he just prefers to veg out. “Laging higa, cell phone,” he says with a laugh. Sometimes he also gets to play a game of virtual hoops, like “NBA 2k13.” So, where does he play better—on a real court or against computer bots? “Puwede bang sa pareho ako magaling?” he jokes.
Mike likes interacting with friends and fans on Twitter and Instagram. He appreciates fans who wish him luck before a game, and shares his pregame ritual as well. “Every time may game, hinahawakan ko ’yung floor sa court and I make the sign of the cross. I also make sure to pray before a game,” he says.
Audience of one
How does he manage to keep a cool head on a floor filled with competitive athletes, especially when a heated argument breaks out? “Lagi kaming ni-re-remind ni coach to play with an audience of one: God. So ’pag umiinit ’yung ulo namin, we remember the audience of one, and it helps,” says Mike.
He also talks about FEU’s toughest competition. “Ateneo talaga. Talagang team sila ’pag naglaro. They play as one. Mahirap talaga makalaban ’yung ganung klaseng team,” he says.
Will this season be the year of the Tamaraws? “Mahirap sabihin. Pero laban lang kami,” he quips.
Follow Mike Tolomia on Twitter (@miketolomia13) and on Instagram (miketolomia).