From Gilas rookie in 2014, Paul Lee ready to take on leadership role in young PH side
With locker-room leaders Marc Pingris, Ranidel de Ocampo, and Gabe Norwood gone, Paul Lee is one of those being groomed to step into a leadership role for Gilas 5.0. Jerome Ascano

PAUL Lee hits the ground running as far as being a leader for Gilas Pilipinas is concerned as he rejoins the national pool after a two-year absence.

The Star playmaker has been included in the 24-man pool for Gilas 5.0, and with locker-room leaders Marc Pingris, Ranidel de Ocampo, and Gabe Norwood left out, Lee is one of those being groomed to step into a leadership role right away.

“Siguro, kasi wala na yung mga mainstays talaga, so feeling ko panibagong batch na ‘to ng players,” Lee said in short chat with SPIN.ph after practice on Monday. “Siguro ito yung i-hahandle ni coach Chot ulit na matagal na panahon.”

[See Pingris says Gilas in good hands with Calvin Abueva: 'S'ya na parang pumalit sa akin']

Only Jayson Castro, Japeth Aguilar, and Calvin Abueva are older in the current pool than Lee, who turns 28 on Valentines’ Day and who last played for the national team in the 2014 Fiba World Cup in Spain.

At least there are hardly any adjustments for him individually, having also been under Reyes in the World Cup in Spain.

“Parehas lang naman siguro kasi Coach Chot din naman, so medyo feeling ko ngayon, hindi na ako mahihirapan mag-adjust kasi second time ko na kay Coach Chot,” Lee said.

The 2012 PBA Rookie of the Year was also chosen to be part of the pool under coach Tab Baldwin for last year’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament, but injuries forced him to beg off.

[See Grading the Gilas cadets: Which players have a shot at making Chot Reyes' final lineup?]

Now, the stocky six-foot combo guard makes a comeback and is expected to be among the leaders of a young team that will again rely on its quickness and outside shooting..

“Fast at feeling ko 'yun pa rin naman (yung ibang qualities) eh,” Lee said. “Dun kasi tayo may (advantage). 'Yun 'yung game talaga natin, so feeling ko 'yun 'yung hinahanap ni coach talaga.”

Whatever role he plays, Lee is simply thrilled to play for flag and country once again.

“Syempre happy kasi napili ka ulit to represent the country, so 'yun, very happy and honored,” he said.

Follow the writer on Twitter: @KarloSacamos