Raul Soyud was never the best of the bunch.
In fact, prior to being drafted in the 2014 PBA Rookie Draft, Soyud finished his collegiate career as part of a 0-14 University of the Philippines squad.
Then in the draft itself, the 6-foot-6 banger was selected as the 31st overall pick.
Fast forward to seven years later, Soyud was selected into an exclusive club of elite basketball players – Gilas Pilipinas. And for him, it’s a dream realized.
“Sobrang nagulat kasi hindi ko ine-expect na makasali ako dun. Isang karangalan na ma-invite sa ganung pool na naglalaro ‘yung magagaling na player,” the 30-year-old out of Bago City told Sidelines.
“Once-in-a-lifetime na opportunity siya, kaya hindi ko na pinakawalan.”
For seven years, Soyud had to grind just to stay in the PBA.
Though spending the majority of his career with NLEX, he hardly cracked the main rotation of the Road Warriors from 2014 to 2019.
“Wala siyang reklamo, kahit madalas mapagalitan. He was really determined to get better,” NLEX head coach Yeng Guiao told the team’s official Facebook page.
His hard work eventually paid off inside the PBA bubble.
Soyud posted career-highs of 10.0 points and 6.82 board. And he was a picture of efficiency as he shot a lights-out 73.8-percent from the field – a league-high.
Safe to say, those numbers earned him a Gilas invite. He learned about the development when he signed his two-year extension with NLEX on his birthday.
“Nung pumirma ako ng contract, sinabihan ako ni Boss Ronald [Dulatre] na ininvite daw ako ni Coach Tab [Baldwin] na sumama sa Gilas pool para mag-ensayo,” Soyud bared.
“Sobrang tuwang-tuwa ako nun. Hindi ko akalain na mapupunta ako dun. Halos lahat ng player sa Pilipinas, pinangarap na ma-invite sa national team.”
A former Gilas head coach himself, Guiao believes that Soyud will be of great help to the national team, especially against Indonesia’s Lester Prosper and Korea’s Ricardo Ratliffe.
“His rugged, physical play against opponents bigger than him will be valuable for Gilas, and he can hit the outside shots. He can make those shots when you leave him open.”