EVEN though he will only be a practice player for Gilas Pilipinas, Raymond Almazan said he cherishes the opportunity to help the national team in its preparation for the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Almazan grabbed the chance to join the national team training, even if it would mean missing out on offseason rest after a grueling conference that saw his Rain or Shine squad win the PBA Commissioner’s Cup.
“Bakit ako manghihinayang? Para sa bayan ‘yun eh,” Almazan told reporters after appearing in his first Gilas practice this year.
Almazan was given the green light by Rain or Shine management to join Gilas Pilipinas practices even though he is already ineligible to make it to the final roster for the Fiba Olympic Qualifying Tournament.
Still, the Bataan native said he will not let this opportunity slip.
“Kahit nung elementary player pa ako, gusto ko sumali sa mga ganyan para i-represent ang school. Eh ngayon, binibigyan na ako ng chance, dapat i-grab mo na. Minsan lang ‘to. Hindi mo na maibabalik ang panahon,” said Almazan.
Though he will not be part of the Final 12, Almazan said he will still give his best for the team.
“At least, makakatulong ako sa team. Masaya na ako dun,” said Almazan.
Almazan admitted he was anxious to enter the Meralco Gym for his first practice, even texting Gilas pool member Jeff Chan to ask where he was so he won’t be going in alone. But Almazan soon found the team very accommodating.
“Nahihiya pa ako pumasok pero overwhelming naman ‘yung pagtanggap sa akin,” said Almazan.
One of those who welcomed him with open arms was Gilas Pilipinas coach Tab Baldwin.
“I’ve told him a couple of times and I can’t help myself and say, ‘Hey, you’re pretty good.’ He belongs to us. I’m repeating myself but I appreciate Rain or Shine for having him come in and help us,” said Baldwin.
To emphasize his point, Baldwin added a tweet about Almazan at the end of practice: 'He can play, enough said'
Almazan said his participation in the Gilas program will not only help the team but also himself.
“Training ground pa rin ‘to. Isipin mo, kasama ko mga all-star ng PBA. Para sa future ko ‘to, sa sarili ko. Mag-iimprove ako kasi ibang level ang turo ni Coach Baldwin. Ibang iba talaga,” said Almazan.