HE may have gained valuable experience and came out in one piece from his practices with Rain or Shine during the NCAA break, but Raymond Almazan could not prevent Letran from suffering its first loss this season when the Knights returned to action last week.
“Frustrating,” Almazan told Spin.ph after the team’s 66-80 loss to University of Perpetual Help in a game where they fell into an early hole which proved too much to overcome.
“Magbibigay ka ng thirty-one points sa first quarter, napakalaking advantage ‘nun sa kalaban. Binigyan namin sila ng confidence.”
Almazan, the league’s leading MVP candidate who is set to apply for the PBA rookie draft later this year, survived his four-day training with the Elasto Painters, where current Letran coach Caloy Garcia served as Yeng Guiao’s chief deputy.
Although he didn’t get to play against the bruising Beau Belga, who was with Gilas Pilipinas as an alternate during the 27th Fiba-Asia Championship, Almazan did get to bang bodies with the other half of the tough 'Extra Rice Inc.' in JR Quiñahan.
“Oo, (sumakit katawan ko). Kinabukasan talaga hindi na ako nakapag-practice,” the reed-thin Almazan joked.
The experience not only made him physically stronger but a better-rounded player overall, the 6-7 slotman from Bataan swore.
“(Natutunan ko ng mas mabuti) how to play like a pro, may patience, at kung paano mo dalhin yung sarili mo sa game kasi pag college basketball iba talaga sa pro,” Almazan said. “Sabi niya (JR) lalo pag akyat mo sa pro, kailangan may kumpiyansa ka at don’t hesitate to take the shot.”
“Gusto ko i-apply sa laro ko yun,” he added.
And it showed against the Altas in a game where Almazan, who registered team-highs of 15 points and 17 rebounds, hardly complained against calls he didn’t agree with.
His maturity and leadership also showed when he tried to console his teammates after the loss, which allowed defending champion San Beda to grab a share of the lead in the standings.
“At least nasa top pa rin kami,” Almazan said. “Wala naman nag-e-expect na nasa top kami ngayon di ba? Sa press conference (before the start of the season) nga eh, yung Letran hindi nila binanggit na mabigat na kalaban eh.”