PAUL Lee may be known for his offensive prowess, but more than that, his toughness is the one aspect he hopes to contribute if and when he makes it to the official lineup of Gilas Pilipinas for the Fiba-World Cup in Spain.
Lee was named by coach Chot Reyes on Friday as part of the 17-man pool team bound for the world basketball championships, and he believes his contribution at both ends of the court had earned him a second straight invitation to become part of the national squad.
Asked what he can give to the team if assured of a slot in the World Cup team, Lee without batting an eyelash replied, “toughness at saka basketball IQ.”
“Siguro `yung nakikita nila sa akin sa laro, `yung mga nilalabas ko sa game,” added the Rain or Shine stalwart.
People with whom Lee had worked for could attest how resilient the brawny guard out of University of the East is, including no less than Rain or Shine co-team owner Raymund Yu.
“Paul kasi can be a very good addition to the Gilas team. Marami ang nagsasabi na he is slow for a point guard, pero sa akin, tingin ko, he is deceivingly slow. Kasi he can do a lot of things with his size,” said Yu, who has been giving his full support to the national team along with co-owner Terry Que.
Yu himself is surprised at how tough a player the man they referred to as `Angas ng Tondo’ is.
“Amazed ako sa toughness nung bata na 'yan. Napakatapang. Hindi siya takot makipag-banggaan kahit sa mga mas malalaki sa kanya,” said Yu.
During the playoff and the Finals of the recently concluded PBA Philippine Cup, Lee was actually tasked to defend against bigger guys like Doug Kramer, Marc Pingris, Joe Devance, Ian Sangalang, and sophomore behemoth June Mar Fajardo.
“Okay lang naman sa akin makipag-banggaan. Sanay na tayo. Kahit maliit ako, hindi ako pumapayag na mabu-bully sa loob. Yan din kasi isang pinagha-handaan ko nang husto,” said Lee.
Added the pride of Tondo, “si June Mar malaki yun masyado. Aminado ako nahirapan ako bumangga sa kanya. Kaso pinipilit ko. Yun ang naiutos sa akin eh.”
Rain or Shine assistant coach Mike Buendia said there is a reason why the team was prepared to take the gamble of having Lee guarding bigger opponents during the last playoffs.
“Kasi malakas at mabigat ang katawan ni Paul. Tapos maliit siya, naiilang yung malalaking binabantayan niya,” he said.
“Pansinin mo lagi siya tinatapat namin sa offensive switching ng kalaban. Tingin ko bagay siya sa Gilas, lalo na dun sa dribble and drive ni coach Chot (Reyes). Magaling mag-break down ng tao 'yan. Malaki pa siyang point guard,” added Buendia.
If and when he makes it in the Gilas official roster, Lee said he’d cherish it as another dream come true.
“Matagal ko na talagang pangarap maglaro sa Gilas. Pero sa akin lang kahit hindi ako makapasok sa Magic 12, yung ma-invite lang ako, malaking karangalan na sa akin yun at sa pamilya ko,” said the player picked No. 2 overall in the 2011 rookie draft.
This is the second time the former Rookie of the Year got an invitation from Reyes to play for Gilas. The first one came last June although Lee failed to show up as he was already scheduled to go to the US that time.
“Sayang nga 'yun. Pero ngayon talagang pinagha-handaan ko na,” he said.