Raymond Almazan feels so blessed, but knows toughest challenge lies just ahead
Raymond Almazan is doused by teammates as he blows the candle on his birthday cake during Gilas practice. Jaime Campos

RAYMOND Almazan has a lot to be thankful for on the the day he turned 28.

Aside from enjoying a blossoming basketball career filled with highlights such as his Gilas Pilipinas stint, it was the first time Almazan celebrated his birthday with his firstborn child on Wednesday.

"First birthday ko din ito na may baby ako. Sobrang saya ko at wala na kong mahihingi na iba," said Almazan, whose wife Liza gave birth to a bouncing boy last December.

The lanky Rain or Shine slotman said he can't ask for more.

"Hindi ko na lang namalayan. Parang sobra-sobra na kasi kung titignan mo, overwhelmed ako pero dahil sa kakatrabaho ko, eto na pala yun," said the Rain or Shine slotman.

"Wala na kong mahihiling na iba pa. Nagtratrabaho ako para sa asawa ko, sa baby ko, at sa kinabukasan ng anak ko."

[See PBA taking week-long break to give way to Gilas campaign in Fiba Asia Cup]

The 6-foot-8 center, though, is hoping the euphoria he is feeling right now will translate into a decent performance with the national team in the Fiba Asia Cup win Lebanon.

"Excited na ko dun. Hindi ako kinakabahan to be honest, ibang excitement ang nararamdaman ko dahil ibang basketball na naman ito," he said.

"So it's a blessing for me at para ito sa ika-iimprove ko at ng team natin kaya happy ako." 

But he knows it won't be easy.

Gilas Pilipinas opens its campaign in the Beirut, Lebanon showpiece from August 8 to 20 against defending champion China and is in line to meet powerhouse Australia early in the playoffs.

"Alam naman natin na medyo maikli yung preparation natin pero ginagawa namin yung best namin. Alam naman natin na hindi basta-basta ang giyera na pupuntahan natin," he said.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @janbballesteros