This wasn’t the usual matchup that Caelan Tiongson was used to going up against.
The Filipino-American found himself squatting low and using all of his force to keep 7’4″ behemoth Samuel Deguara away from the loose rebound. Chong Son Kung Fu’s primary big man , Justin Howard, has just fouled out of the game leaving Tiongson with the task of manning the paint against the towering Deguara.
Once a Mono Vampire shot attempt clanged of the rim, the war for the rebound intensified. Deguara tried to force his way closer to the carom, using all of his 330-pound frame to budge Tiongson out of his way.
But Tiongson stood his ground.
The loose rebound bounced away from Deguara’s reach, leaving Luo Yongxuan with the easy rebound and another successful defensive possession by Chong Son Kung Fu. As his teammates rushed up to their offensive set, Tiongson takes a quick moment to let out a huge sigh.
At the same time, on the opposite side of the court near the bench of Chong Son Kung Fu, you can notice one energetic elderly lady rooting for the team like it’s Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
Say hello to Carolyn Poindexter, Tiongson’s beloved grandmother.
“I almost laughed my head off,” she says of Tiongson’s late game clash with Deguara. Her voice had gone hoarse after passionately rooting for her grandson. “He was giving up one foot and probably 160 pounds to Deguara.”
Carolyn was seated alongside Kristin, Tiongson’s mother, right in front of the baseline so that they were able to see everything that was going on the court. They needed to see the action up close, especially Grandmama Carolyn, to be able to cheer for their boy.
“She lost her voice completely, she can’t even speak,” Tiongson joyfully says about his grandmother. “She’s always super intense. She’s always been that way since college and it’s great having them here.”
When Tiongson says “she’s always been that way since college”, he really means it when he says “always”.
“Every game.” Carolyn says. “We live in California and he went to college in California so we followed him every game.”
She even mentions making the trip to watch Tiongson play in the NAIA Division 1 Championship tournament in Missouri almost exactly one year ago which ended up in a first round loss. The results were different this time, halfway across the world in Foshan, China. Chong Son Kung Fu were able to beat Mono Vampire Basketball Club and Hong Kong Eastern Basketball Team in the span of 3 days.
“Obviously we’re 2-0 with them here so hopefully it keeps on rolling.” Tiongson jokes.
“To be honest, it’s crazy that they’re here,” Tiongson gushes. “I’ve been here for 6-7 months or however long its been and now they’re here. It’s great to have them here to motivate me really hard. They’re my biggest support system so for them to be here, I just love them so much, and it’s just awesome to have them here.”
With both his grandmother and mother watching him play professionally for the first time, Tiongson put in arguably his most productive game with 17 points, 7 rebounds, 7 assists, and 3 steals. He always gives his full effort whenever he takes the court and constantly oozes of emotion and passion, but in that particular game, there just seemed to be an extra boost.
“That’s her boy and she’s his memaw,” Kristin say of the grandmother-grandson relationship. “She’s always been there for him.”
After the postgame huddle celebrating their win over the Mono Vampire Basketball Club, Tiongson rushes over to greet his “memaw” and you can see how much love the two have for each other.
“I never had the best father figure growing up so I was raised by my mom and my grandma,” says Tiongson. “So my grandma doubled as my grandma and my dad and then my mom doubled as my dad, too.”
They say that there’s a woman behind every man’s success. So far, with his team already clinching a Playoff berth, Caelan Tiongson’s start to his professional basketball career could also be considered a success.
And behind it is not only one woman — but two.
“Those women are the strongest women ever so when I compete, it’s all from how tough I’ve seen them be. I just want to be as tough as they raised me.”