REIGNING NCAA Most Valuable Player Raymond Almazan is not as happy as he would like to be when he makes his Philippine Basketball Association debut on Sunday.
And it’s understandable why.
The Letran star is coming off fresh from a 56-60 loss to San Beda in the deciding game of the NCAA Finals on Saturday at the packed Mall of Asia Arena.
And in the light of failing to cap his four-year college career with a championship, the 6-foot-7 center has no choice but to keep dreaming in the next level.
“Parang nawasak ako. Hindi ako nag-champion sa college,” a teary-eyed Almazan said, his words mumbling after the game on the eve of the opening of the PBA Philippine Cup between Rain or Shine and Alaska at the University of Southeastern Philippines gym.
“Pero `yung motivation ko maging champion player, hindi pa rin nawawala. Siguro sa PBA na lang.”
Almazan rued the breaks of the game in the all-important match, where the Red Lions converted key plays down the stretch to claim a fourth successive crown.
“Ganun talaga laro. Wala na ako magagawa dun. Nangayari na,” said the lanky big man who was tabbed by the Elasto Painters with the third overall pick in the recent Draft. “Siguro mga ilang araw, ilang linggo (kong dadamdamin ‘to), pero I need to move on.”
While marveling at the Lions’ pedigree, Almazan was also proud of his team’s performance as the Knights stayed within striking distance all-game long in stark contrast to the same Game Three last year when they were on the wrong side of a blowout decision.
“They showed us na champion team talaga sila. Pero kami naman hindi naman kami nag-back down eh. binigay namin `yung laban na gusto nila.”
“So nothing to be ashamed of naman kasi lumaban naman kami,” the pride of Bataan added.
Almazan, who was hobbled by foul trouble in the middle of the third and fourth quarters, finished with 14 points, 11 boards, and four blocks, a performance that canceled out that of San Beda counterpart Ola Adeogun, who tallied 17 points, 13 rebounds, and four blocks.
“He’s a good player,” Almazan said of Adeogun. “Mabigat, pero kaya ko naman tapatan. Kaso pag lumalabas ako, nawawala `yung defense. So yun ang kailangang pagtrabahuhan nila coach Caloy (Garcia).”
Garcia, however, admitted, he won’t immediately find a slotman in lieu of the pro-bound 6-foot-7 Almazan.
“That’s the challenge in college basketball. You have to look for someone who can step up right away. But I doubt if we can find a replacement that fast,” said Garcia, who is also assistant coach of Rain or Shine.