FORMER national coach Yeng Guiao is going all out in batting for his star guard Paul Lee’s inclusion in the lineup of Gilas Pilipinas for the Fiba World Cup.
Coach of the Powerade Team Pilipinas that competed in the 2009 Fiba Asia Championships in Tianjin, China, Guiao said his starting guard at Rain or Shine will come in handy when Chot Reyes' Gilas side goes up against tall opposition in Spain in August.
Lee and Rain or Shine teammate Beau Belga are the two inclusions in the Gilas team that finished second in last year's Fiba Asia championships to earn a trip to the World Cup.
Guiao said Lee brings unique qualities to the Gilas backcourt which holdovers LA Tenorio, Jimmy Alapag, and Jason Castro do not have - height, heft, and the ability to defend far bigger players.
That's aside from his deadly shooting and a dazzling array of offensive moves.
“Mahirap makialam sa desisyon nila ha, mas alam nila yung needs ng team. Pero tingin ko, Paul Lee will be a big help. Bata si Paul and he is a big guard. Hindi siya nami-mismatch sa malalaking guwardya,” said Guiao shortly after the Painters' 51-point win over the Alaska Aces on Wednesday.
“Pwede ngang dos at tres 'yan, pang match-up mo sa malalaking pang-depensa. Sa international game, malalaki talaga ang guwardya, so di siya madi-disadvantage,” added the multi-titled coach.
Guiao said he doesn't even hesitate to pit Lee against the big men of other PBA teams like Marc Pingris, Calvin Abueva, Cliff Hodge, Joe Devance, Ian Sangalang, Arwind Santos, Willie Wilson and even towering centers June Mar Fajardo, only because he knows Lee can handle the physicality.
“Hindi rin kasi s'ya uncomfortable na makipagbanggaan sa mga malalaki eh. Kaya very useful talaga 'yung characteristic niya na 'yun eh,” Guiao told Spin.ph.
“Sa galing nga ni LA (Tenorio), magaling si LA pero maaring ma-disadvantage siya kapag sobrang lalaki na yung guwardya, 'yun siguro ang magiging role ni Paul kung sakali,” he added.
At six feet and 207 pounds, Lee said he isn't fazed by bigger opponents.
“Dapat talaga 190 o 185 pounds lang ako para sa height ko. Kaso talagang nagpapa-bulk up ako. Kasi hindi ako kumportable lumaro ng magaan,” said the 'Angas ng Tondo.' “Alam ko kasi na pwede akong i-bully ng mga kalaban, lalo na yung mga malalaki, kung papaya-payat ako.
“Hindi na bago sa akin na malaki ang binabantayan, kasi minsan may role si coach Yeng pag kaya naming malilit yung nagbibigay ng ball screen kailangan talaga mag-switch kami sa malalaki,” he explained.
Belga said Lee is one of the toughest defenders he has seen.
“Marunong kasi si Paul makipagbanggaan. Sanay siya. Hindi mo siya basta-basta maatatake. Kasi marunong nga eh. Alam niya gamitin yung katawan niya,” said the 6-6, 260-pound Belga.
“Tapos mataas yung IQ niya, alam niya ang susunod mong gagawin. Binabasa niya talaga 'yung kilos nung kalaban,” added the Gilas mainstay.
Asked if he, too, will bat for the inclusion of Lee in the World Cup-bound team, Belga voiced his all-out support.
“Pwede sa Gilas 'yan. Malaking bagay 'yan. Mas kakailanganin mo yung ganung klase ng player na mabigat saka marunong,” he said. “Yung Carlos Arroyo at JJ Barea, tingin ko pwedeng pahirapan ni Paul sa depensa yun. May shooting pa si Paul, anytime bumitaw may sure ball.”