The night of August 27 was one of those nights that Raymond Almazan will never forget. Not because Rain or Shine Elasto Painters won over Star Hotshots, but all because he exited the SMART Araneta Coliseum on a stretcher.
It was a result of overfatigue, for he had little rest after flying from Lebanon for the 2017 FIBA Asia Cup.
Almazan still managed to suit up for the Elasto Painters last September 6 against the San Miguel Beermen. But even with the lengthy break he had prior to that game, the 28-year-old still felt that he has not recovered his form yet.
“Yung game against San Miguel yun yung turning point, kasi coming from sakit tapos four days akong hindi nakapagensayo so pagbalik ko, sluggish pa,” the athletic six-foot-eight forward recalled of that game which they lost.
“Dun ko talaga naramdaman sa San Miguel na pagod ako, na tatlong baba lang wala na akong hangin.”
After that weak showing versus SMB, Almazan then had the sense of urgency to get back in shape. He maximized the one-week allowance he and the Elasto Painters had before going up against Phoenix Fuel Masters, Wednesday.
And, though as cliché as it may sound, Almazan’s hard work paid off greatly.
The Bataan-native was all over the Ynares Center against the Fuel Masters, scattering 25 points and 11 rebounds to help the Elasto Painters reign victorious, 116-111 — the win that kicked Phoenix out of the 2017 Governor’s Cup playoffs.
“Naka-recover na ako,” shared Almazan after his impressive showing in Antipolo City.
“Pagdating ko sa practice, mga one week before nung game na ‘to [versus Phoenix], nagpahinga at nagpakondisyon talaga ako.”
It was like the Almazan of old who showed up versus the Fuel Masters. But for the former Letran Knight, the credit goes to his stint with Gilas Pilipinas, for it helped him boost his confidence.
“Malaking tulong sa’kin kasi it boosted my confidence. Marami akong natutunan doon kasi sobrang lalaki ng mga kalaban dun. Malalaki, magagaling at sobrang daming experience. So in-apply ko lang sa game,” he said.
Wednesday’s win lifted Rain or Shine to a win away from the quarterfinals. But getting that win will be a tough task to fulfill, for they will battle the reigning Governor’s Cup champions Barangay Ginebra this coming Saturday.
But on top of that, Almazan is just simply looking to maintain his healthy state to secure their playoff aspirations.
“Ginebra kalaban namin next tapos may two games kami next week, so mahirap yon. Bawal talaga magkasakit,” he said.