No Gilas Pilipinas just yet for Raymond Almazan

MANILA, Philippines – Lanky Rain or Shine big man Raymond Almazan will not be joining the Gilas Pilipinas pool for now, according to coach Tab Baldwin. 

The 6-foot-9 Almazan was not released by his PBA team to the Philippine national team as they prepare for the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament to be held in Manila this July. 

"They’re not prepared to release him. And as I said we fully understand that," Baldwin said Monday, March 7, stressing Gilas fully understands the team's decision. "Raymond has a future in Gilas but it's a very big demand for 4 players from one PBA team to be given up for even one night a week practice." 

Rain or Shine, a team that's always been gracious with lending players to Gilas, already released Gabe Norwood, Jeff Chan, and Paul Lee to the pool.

The Elasto Painters are also struggling in the 2016 PBA Commissioner's Cup with a 2-3 record right in the middle of the pack as they, too, deal with injuries to Chan and Lee. 

"They're very extended right now. They didn't get off to the best start and they want to right the ship, get their team in the right direction, and they're struggling with injuries," Baldwin explained. "I think rather than pointing fingers we have to be sympathetic. We're asking an awful lot and they have answered that call significantly so let’s be happy with that and appreciate that."

"No tongue-in-cheek, no secret agendas on the side, we really appreciate having Gabe, Paul, and Jeff as part of the pool. We'd love to have Raymond but for this point in time it's not going to happen. We are entirely okay with that," he added. 

Almazan, who was drafted third overall in 2013 and has since been a vital cog to Rain or Shine's frontline, previously expressed his desire and dream to play for the national team. 

"Every player naman dream 'yun e," he was quoted as saying late in December after receiving Baldwin's invitation to join the pool. "So pag humindi ka dun, tanga ka talaga. Ako hindi talaga ako hihindi." (That's every player's dream. If you say no, you're stupid. I would never say no.) 

Baldwin gave assurances that Almazan, 26, certainly has a place with Gilas in the near future.

"His day will come. I'm sure of it," Baldwin said. "And I think it will come sooner rather than later and we will welcome that time when it comes. After discussions with the Rain or Shine people they will welcome that too." –