|Starting with a simple teasing by his cousin, "Rakenrol" is now rocking the PBA. Nina Carezon (file photo)|
By Ivan Saldajeno
MANILA--Raymond Almazan may have the most interesting moniker among the active PBA players.
While we have become accustomed to the likes of "The Blur", "Extra Rice Inc.", "Big Game James", and "The Bro", many of us have known Almazan as "Rakenrol".
The "Rakenrol" moniker is so popular that even former Gilas Pilipinas Men coach Chot Reyes used the name to announce that the current Meralco center has been inserted to their final lineup.
Some think that the "Rakenrol" moniker is probably due to Almazan's resemblance to Filipino rock legend Pepe Smith, who always blurts out "Rock and roll!" during his gigs.
In a podcast interview, Almazan finally bared how he became "Rakenrol", and he has his cousin, former PBA star Kerby Raymundo, to "blame".
"Nagsimula yan kay Kerby," Almazan said during the Foul Counted podcast on Wednesday night.
He later said, "Bago ako mag-Letran Manila noon, wala akong ngipin tapos talagang payat ako. Tapos tawag sa akin, 'Rakenrol!' Dati, 'Kid!' Ngayon, 'Rakenrol!'"
This somehow confirmed that the "Rakenrol" moniker is indeed an "ode" of sorts to Smith.
While it may just be a simple teasing among relatives, Almazan never thought that the "Rakenrol" moniker will reach the PBA.
"Di ako nga akalain na [aabot] hanggang sa PBA. Nagulat na lang ako," he continued, adding that it was due to Raymundo still calling him "Rakenrol" when he had conversations with his friends about how his cousin is progressing.
Unlike before when he somehow gets annoyed being called "Rakenrol", Almazan has been embracing the said moniker.
"Nage-enjoy na ako pag ganyan lalo na pag tinatawag ako sa court," he quipped.
Kerby as motivator
While Raymundo keeps on teasing him with the "Rakenrol" moniker, Almazan said that he is thankful for his cousin for motivating him. As an example, Almazan recalled his first game with the Knights.
"Di ko makakalimutan [na] nag-text ako sa kanya dati. First game ko sa NCAA. Sobrang daming tao noon sabay opening pa. Sabi ko, 'Kerby, first game ko. Kinakabahan ako. Parang namumutla at nanginginig ako,'" Almazan remembered how he started the conversation.
Raymundo's answer, as told by Almazan: "Kaya mo yan. Alam ko mas maganda pa ang ipapakita mo sa akin as a rookie."
From having the rookie jitters right in his NCAA debut, the six-foot-eight slotman slowly established himself as a prime rim protector for Letran, winning the Most Improved Player award in 2011, the Defensive Player of the Year for two straight years in 2012 and 2013, and the Most Valuable Player in 2013.
The third overall pick of the 2013 PBA Draft continued his on-court brilliance to Rain Or Shine, earning him All-Rookie Team honors by the PBA Press Corps in 2014.
In his latter years with the Knights and even in his PBA D-League stint with the Cagayan Rising Suns, Almazan developed his three-point shooting, which made him a key weapon in the Elasto Painters' championship run in the 2016 PBA Commissioner's Cup considering then Head Coach Yeng Guiao's preference of stretch big men.
Needless to say, Almazan is on track of at least matching Raymundo's accolades like how their text conversation a decade ago went.
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