RAIN or Shine rookie Raymond Almazan said he doesn’t mind playing under a coach considered as the most rigid and demanding in the PBA today.
Instead, the 6-foot-7 pride of Orion Bataan hopes that he will one day join a long line of former and active players who blossomed under the wings of six-time champion coach Yeng Guiao.
“Alam ko naman na sa ikakabuti ko rin po `yun kung anuman ang tinuturo at ginagawa niya sa amin. Syempre, nagagalit siya sa iyo dahil nakita niyang may mali ka,” said the former Letran star and reigning NCAA MVP.
Almazan went on to enumerate players like two-time league MVP Willie Miller, Cyrus Baguio, Jeff Chan, Paul Lee, Lordy Tugade, Larry Fonacier, Junthy Valenzuela, and his own cousin Kerby Raymundo in the long list of players who were honed by Guiao and his 'tough love.'
“OK si coach Yeng. Kaya nga halos lahat ng hawakan niya, ayaw malayo sa kanya,” said the former Letran Knight.
Almazan even went to share his humbling experience in his first ever game under Guiao, recalling how he got a tongue-lashing from the fiery mentor in his first game with Rain or Shine.
“Sa depensa ko 'yun kay Reynel (Hugnatan) eh. Nagsunod-sunod foul ko, kaya pagdating namin sa dugout galit siya. Sinigawan ako ng, ‘Masahista ka ba?’ sa harap ng mga kakampi ko,” said Almazan with a sheepish smile.
“Kasi nga daw medyo malambot `yung bangga ko kay Reynel. Hindi pala pwede sa kanya yun,” he said, while trying to mimic how Guiao swayed his hands as if massaging somebody.
Guiao, the congressman from the 1st district of Pampanga, told Spin.ph he bowled out Almazan because he felt the rookie was intimidated by his veteran opponent.
“Nakita ko kasi na parang tentative siya nun sa game. Ilang sunod na foul binigay niya sa kalaban. Kaya gusto ko tumibay din loob niya. Hindi pwedeng lalambot-lambot. Kakainin ka ng buhay ng kalaban,” Guiao said.
Asked if Guiao’s statement drew laughter inside the gloomy Rain or Shine dugout, Elasto Painters mainstay Ryan Arana was quick to say no.
“Hindi, syempre kahit tawang-tawa na kami nun, pinipigil namin. Mamaya ikaw mapagbalingan ng galit ni coach, tapos ka!” said the tough Rain or Shine guard.
Almazan’s wife, Liza, also bared to Spin.ph how his husband has been following everything he has learned from Guiao to the letter to further improve his game.
Mrs. Almazan revealed that since Guiao’s hilarious ‘massage' comment, her husband has been diligently working to improve his game and stamina.
“Six times a week na siya mag-gym ngayon. After every practice, nagbubuhat na siya. Ganun mas naging ka-determined si Raymond ngayon,” she said in a Christmas eve conversation while she was at the mall waiting for Raymond who was at the gym.
Liza also disclosed how she would often hear about amusing dugout stories from Rain or Shine and nagging from fellow spouses.
“Pero normal lang `yun. Sana lang ma-develop din si Raymond gaya nung ibang naging produkto ni coach Yeng. And sana mabigyan na rin siya ng chance ipakita game niya, makuha na sana niya kumpiyansa niya (Guiao),” added the proud, expectant wife.
Almazan tallied 13.50 points, 16.50 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game in his last season with Letran on his way to being crowned NCAA MVP - something that his wife expects him to show in Rain or Shine’s coming games.
The third overall pick in the recent Rookie Draft currently averages 3.57 points and 5.14 rebounds in seven games with the franchise co-owned by Raymund Yu and Terry Que.