RAYMUND Almazan officially joins the Gilas Pilipinas training pool as he starts practicing with the national team starting on Sunday.
Coach Tab Baldwin confirmed the lanky Rain or Shine center will come on board as additional warm body to a Gilas side that has been plagued recently by a spate of injuries.
“I expect Raymund to be at practice tomorrow with us,” said the national coach on Saturday when Nike formally unveiled the set of jerseys Gilas Pilipinas will be wearing for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament set July 5-10 at the Mall of Asia Arena.
Rain or Shine team owner Raymund Yu later confirmed Baldwin personally talked to him and asked for his consent to have Almazan reinforce the team in the next five weeks as it prepares for the final qualifying meet for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
“Yes we gave Raymund (Almazan) the blessing to join Gilas. Coach Tab Baldwin asked permission from us (with co-owner Terry Que) if they can have Almazan with the national team,” said Yu, who personally offered the services of the former NCAA MVP following the injuries suffered by Greg Slaughter, Matt Ganuelas-Rosser, and Paul Lee.
Yu said Rain or Shine lent Almazan to the national team despite not being eligible to be part of Baldwin’s final 12-man lineup since his name was not included in the original list of 24 players submitted by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) to Fiba.
“We told coach Tab that we’re letting Raymund join Gilas and help the team in whatever capacity he can. And personally I know Raymund really also wants to play for the national squad,” added Yu, who had two other players in the training pool in Jeff Chan and Gabe Norwood.
Baldwin is grateful for the help extended by Rain or Shine, which is fresh from winning the PBA Commissioner’s Cup title, to Gilas.
“We can fit him to the roster anywhere,” he said of Almazan, who he personally recruited for Gilas as early as the Philippine Cup. “I like to see Raymund. I know he’s excited and I know he wants to help (the team).”