RAYMOND Almazan paid tribute to Meralco teammate Reynel Hugnatan as he recalled his ‘Welcome to the PBA’ moment recently.
In an Instagram post, Almazan recalled his first game in the PBA which happened to be against Meralco. The former Letran center was still with Rain or Shine at that time, but he soon found out how difficult it was to match up against Hugnatan.
“At naalala ko noong first game ko sa PBA, si Papa Rey agad nabantayan ko. Ayon, kinain si Almazan, five fouls agad,” wrote Almazan on his Instagram account.
Almazan only played for 14 minutes and had two rebounds in the Elastopainters’ 94-89 loss to the Bolts on November 22, 2013. According to the game account of SPIN.ph of that match, Almazan got his third foul as early as the second period trying to pry the ball away from Hugnatan.
“Ni-ready ko na sarili ko sa sigaw,” Almazan said then, referring to ex-Rain or Shine coach Yeng Guiao. “Hindi ko expected talaga na ganun kabigat mga players. Siguro, paghahandaan ko pa talaga, hindi ko pa alam masyado mga plays. Ang mga tawagan, hindi ka rin naman papaburan.”
Even though he took Almazan to school, Hugnatan had encouraging words to say after that match.
“Of course, he’s still young. Siyempre, bago pa lang, ilang beses pa lang nage-ensayo, pero malaking potential niya at malaking bata, gagaling pa yang bata.
“Siyempre, agresibo nung una si Raymond. Nanggigil pa siya, pero siguro mapagaaralan naman niya yun eh, Defensive player siya eh so pume-fake ng konti, buti kumakagat naman,” said Hugnatan.
Six years after that match, Almazan wound up with Meralco following a trade from Rain or Shine, allowing him to team up with Hugnatan, who remains one of the most durable players in the PBA.
“Isang karangalan na maging teammate ang idol mo at isa sa pinakamagaling na undersized big man ng PBA. High school pa lang ako, pinapanood ko na ‘to,” wrote Almazan.