Rookie Mike Tolomia admits he's a long way from filling gap left by Paul Lee
Mike Tolomia had 11 points in 15 minutes in his PBA debut. Jerome Ascano

ROOKIE Mike Tolomia played down suggestions he was drafted by Rain or Shine specifically to fill in the void left by former gunner Paul Lee.

In his own way, he just wants to be like Mike.

“Malayo, malayo tayo kay Paul Lee,” said the soft-spoken member of the Gilas cadet training pool after finally making his PBA debut on Wednesday night in a 101-87 win by the Elasto Painters against TNT Katropa at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.

“Alam naman natin kung gaano kagaling si Paul Lee.”

The former Far Eastern University playmaker finished in double figures with 11 points, while adding four rebounds, and two assists in 15 minutes of play as he shared playing time in the backcourt with veterans Gabe Norwood and Chris Tiu, and sophomore Maverick Ahanmisi.

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But he’s the first one to say he’s not in a Rain or Shine uniform to take over the spot vacated by Lee, who was traded by the franchise during the offseason in a blockbuster deal for longtime Star stalwart James Yap.

“Siyempre expectations nila yun, pero hindi naman mangyayari yun agad-agad,” he said. “Siguro part pa ito ng process.

“Siguro yun din yung gusto kong i-meet, yung expectations nila,” Tolomia added. “Sana sa future.”

What he found rather unusual in his first pro game was playing against fellow FEU teammate Roger Pogoy and coach Nash Racela.

“Nakakapanibago lalo na si coach Nash,” he said with a smile. “Siyempre alam niya (Nash) yung game ko.”

It somehow helped him to settle down the moment the Elasto Painters began to dominate the game, on their way to coasting to the 14-point win.

“Buti na lang nanalo kami,” said Tolomia. “Medyo natanggal na yung kaba kasi successful naman. Masaya ako na nanalo kami.”

Follow the writer on Twitter: @gerardmos