NEVER in his wildest dreams did Paul Lee think of one day playing against some of his idols in the NBA.
Now that he has a chance, Lee is giving it his best shot.
Just days after being named to Gilas Pilipinas' 17-man pool for the Fiba World Cup in August, the wide-bodied Rain or Shine guard said he has started to pay close attention to the games of Argentina's Manu Ginobili, Pablo Prigioni, and Carlos Delfino, and Puerto Rico's Carlos Arroyo and JJ Barea.
“Basta, nagre-review na ako ngayon ng videos sa YouTube at sa TV, para masilip ko na ang galaw nila,” said Lee, who attended his first practice with Gilas on Monday.
"Never na pumasok sa isip ko na pwedeng mangyari 'yun (play against NBA players). Kasi dati napapanood ko lang sila sa TV. Kailangan ko talaga silang i-scout at mapag-aralan kahit hindi pa ako pasok sa team. Kahit sa Playstation, aaralin ko sila,”added Lee with a laugh.
The Philippines is bracketed in Group B in the World Cup preliminaries where, aside from Argentina and Puerto Rico, Gilas will also have to contend with Senegal, Greece and Croatia.
Now that he is in the pool, Lee has made no secret of his desire to make the team.
“Gusto kong mas mag-double up sa training. Buhat, ensayo. Lahat gagawin ko. Gusto kong lumaro sa world championships," the second pick overall of the 2011 PBA draft said. "Sana palarin, pero kung hindi willing ako gampanan anumang role na ipapagawa sa akin.”
Even if he doesn't make the team, the 'Angas ng Tondo' said the extra work he will put in from hereon will go a long way as he tries to establish himself in the pro league.
“Para sa ikabubuti ko rin naman 'yun. Makapasok ako o hindi sa team, alam ko na ginawa ko ang lahat to improve myself. Career ko at pangarap ko ito,” said the 24-year-old guard.
Meanwhile, Lee’s personal adviser and former coach at University of the East, Lawrence Chongson, believes the Rain or Shine guard can truly make a big difference for Gilas in the World Cup with his strength and uncanny ability to deliver in clutch situations.
“Malakas ang katawan ni Paul. Hindi takot makipagbanggaan. At ang maganda dyan, the more na mabigat ang pressure, the more na he can deliver. Hopefully he makes it,” said Chongson.
“I am happy with this new challenge in his career, definitely. It will make Paul a better player. He likes challenges kasi. Kaya every season sa PBA, pansinin niyo he keeps on improving,” added the mop-haired Boracay Rhum coach.
Rain or Shine assistant coach Mike Buendia reiterated his earlier declaration that Lee can fit well with the Gilas’ dribble and drive offense.
“Magaling mag breakdown ng kalaban si Paul. Kaya niyang lituhin ang depensa nito. He has a very high IQ. He can pass or he can attack with brut force yung depensa,” said Buendia.