DAVAO CITY - He was just settling into his seat on a Philippine Airlines flight to this Southern captial on Saturday night when Raymond Almazan got his first-ever photo request as a PBA player.
Rain or Shine’s prized rookie center, the third overall pick in this year’s Draft, gladly obliged to a middle-aged Davaoeño who realized he was in the presence of a pro basketball player before asking Spin.ph to confirm who the tall young man was.
The plane trip to the Durian City was life-changing in more ways than one for the lanky native of Bataan: He left the airport back in Manila an amateur star - and arrives in Davao as a full-fledged PBA player.
“Sabi ko mag-iiba na talaga yung buhay ko,” Almazan said in a chat with Spin.ph later midflight as he was joined by Painters assistant coaches Caloy Garcia and Mike Buendia ahead of the team’s opening All-Filipino Cup game against Alaska on Sunday afternoon at the University of Southeastern Philippines gym.
“Masaya ako kasi nung unang punto ko rito (sa Manila), sino ba namang magaakala na sisikat ng ganito? Hindi naman sa pag-aano,” added the 24-year-old Almazan.
“Pero yung ugali ko, kung sino si Raymond Almazan nung college, ganun pa rin ako,” assured Almazan, who confirmed he is set to sign a three-year deal worth around P8.4 million.
Some things will change, though.
“Kailangan mag-adjust ako sa maturity ko sa paglalaro tsaka disiplina sa sarili kasi basta tinawag na pro basketball player ka na medyo magbabago yung lifestyle mo, yung disiplina sa sarili, sa kinakain.”
“Gagawin ko yung best ko talaga sa PBA para magkaroon ako ng pangalan ’dun.”
As he contemplated on his future, Almazan also could not help but think about the recent past as he, like Garcia and Buendia, was just fresh from a 56-60 Game Three loss with Letran in the NCAA men’s basketball Finals.
San Beda once again denied the Knights of a title and left Almazan without a championship ring in college as he entered the pro ranks.
“Nakangiti nga ako, pero deep inside dumudugo ang puso ko,” Almazan admitted. “Painful journey nga itong flight.”
“Pero ganun talaga yung buhay ng basketball player,” he was quick to add. “Siguro it’s not time pa sa akin. Siguro sa PBA magcha-champion ako.”
Almazan said he may be put on the inactive list against the Aces, but vowed to achieve what he failed to do in college once he makes his debut.
Mark my word, he said.
“Tandaan mo ’tong pag-uusap natin na magcha-champion ako sa PBA.”