Meralco fills hole in the middle with addition of Raymond Almazan
MANILA, Philippines—Meralco’s long wait for a talented man in the middle is over.
The Bolts on Tuesday officially acquired Raymond Almazan from the Rain or Shine Elasto Painters—a deal that had head coach Norman Black licking his chops.
“We’ve gone quite a few years now without being able to man the paint, particularly in the All-Filipino. We haven’t been able to grasp on to a really talented young big,” Black said after his team beat Alaska, 87-80, in a scrimmage at Gatorade Hoops Center in Pasig.
“I know we have bigs. I’m not downplaying or putting them down or anything, but Almazan is one of the best bigs in the country. He’s a national team player,” he added. “He’s 6-8 which gives us some size and hopefully, he can come in and help us inside the paint because he is a good shot blocker, he is a good rebounder, he can score around the basket all the things we need.”
The 29-year-old Almazan, who was the third overall pick by Rain or Shine in the 2013 PBA Draft, played just six games for the Painters in the 2019 Philippine Cup as he dealt with an ankle injury.
Meralco gave up its 2019 and 2021 first round picks to get Almazan and the move just goes to show that the Bolts have a win-now mentality.
“We’re giving up a premium for him obviously, but we wanna win now so we’re bringing a guy that can help us win right now,” Black said. “He can definitely make us better.”
Veteran forward Ranidel De Ocampo also believes Almazan will be of great help to the Bolts, who is coming off a disappointing Philippine Cup stint where it finished with the second-worst record at 3-8.
“Kami lang naman ang walang 6-7 pataas. Kaya malaking tulong siya. May presence sa loob. Parang ito yung prime years niya so sakto lang yung dating niya sa amin,” De Ocampo said.
(We’re the only team who doesn’t have a player standing at least 6-foot-7 that’s why he will help us a lot. He has inside presence. He’s also in his prime years so he arrived at the right time for us.)
Almazan is expected to make his debut for Meralco in the coming Commissioner’s Cup where he will team up with import Gani Lawal down low.
Lawal has been nothing short of impressive in his two tuneup games for the Bolts.
“They give us more size. Lawal is a shot blocker and you add that to the fact that Almazan is a natural shot blocker so you wanna have two guys that can really protect the pain for you,” Black said.
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