WHILE it came as a surprise to many, Raul Soyud's inclusion as part of the Gilas training pool for the FIBA Asia Cup qualifier didn't shock NLEX coach Yeng Guiao at all.
The champion mentor said Soyud being tapped to help the national team prepare for the Feb. 18 to 21 window in Clark, Pampanga is a testament to the hard work the big man has done in all his years in the PBA.
Guiao has seen Soyud worked his way to the top, from being a mere practice player of the Road Warriors who was mostly utilized in minor leagues, to being an integral part of the NLEX core and having a breakout season during the Philippine Cup bubble last year.
"I'm not surprised that Raul was called up to join the Gilas pool, but I was really surprised with the accelerated improvement he had," said Guiao.
"Mabilis yung improvement niya and that is a tribute to his sheer determination and hard work para marating niya yung kinatatayuan niya ngayon."
Last Friday, Soyud, 30, entered the Calamba bubble at the Inspire Sports Academy to join the Gilas pool in his first stint with the national team.
The big man out of the University of the Philippines is one of six PBA players loaned to the Gilas program as it gets ready for the final window of the Asia Cup, joining the likes of CJ Perez, Roger Pogoy, Troy Rosario, Justine Chua, and NLEX teammate Kiefer Ravena as part of the projected 20-man pool of coach Jong Uichico.
While the inclusion isn't a guarantee Soyud, picked in the third round of the 2014 draft by Blackwater, will be included in the final 12-man roster for the tournament proper, Guiao believes the 6-foot-6 center could be an asset for the national team as it battles South Korea and Indonesia during the four-day meet.
"His rugged, physical play against opponents bigger than him will be valuable for Gilas, and he can hit the outside shot," said the NLEX mentor.
"He can make those shots when you leave him open."
Being included in the Gilas training pool is just one of several opportunities that came Soyud's way since his noteworthy performance in the PBA bubble that saw him established averages of 10.0 points on 74 percent shooting from the field, and 6.8 rebounds.
The numbers were enough to consider him as among the candidates for the league's Most Improved Player award, an honor which went to Barangay Ginebra's Prince Caperal.
Nonetheless, NLEX management was still convinced of Soyud's value with the team that he was signed to a new, two-year contract prior to entering the Calamba bubble. (RG)