IF Terrence Romeo is to become the great player almost everyone expects him to be in the pro league, he has to learn to keep his composure in the face of all the taunting and trash talk.
Just ask Rain or Shine star Paul Lee.
Former Rookie of the Year awardee Lee, born and raised in Tondo, said he tried to get into the GlobalPort sensation's head and throw off his game with some trash-talking during Rain or Shine's 98-87 win over the Batang Pier on Sunday night.
Lee no doubt succeeded, judging from the reaction of the clearly irritated Romeo and his performance in the game against the E-Painters, where he finished with just 10 points on 17 attempts and failed to carry the Batang Pier in Sol Mercado's absence.
“Oo, talagang inasar ko siya sa laro. Alam ko naman kakahayan ni Terrence. Baka kung hindi ko ginawa yun, baka pumutok pa,” Lee, one of the league's most dazzling guards and perhaps one of its top trash-talkers, told Spin.ph on Monday.
“Magaling na bata si Terrence. Malakas. Matapang. Pero mahina pa siya rito,” added the former UE Red Warrior while pointing to his head and heart.
Asked how he and Rain or Shine's bruisers got in Romeo's nerves, Lee broke into a grin.
“Inaasar ko lang siya talaga all game. Lagi ko siyang sinasabihan ng: ‘Hoy, hindi ka ba nahihiya sa mga kakampi mo? Patirahin mo naman sila.' Nagulat ako nagre-react,” said the league's 'Angas ng Tondo.'
“Pumapalag talaga siya. Sumasagot. Yung iba hindi na kikibo di ba? Siya hindi. Talagang nakikipagtalo.”
Lee laughed as he recalled how Romeo reacted.
“Nung inaasar ko, sinasabi sa akin: ‘Yabang mo. Abangan mo balang araw… ikaw naman ang kakainin ko.' Natawa na lang ako kaya lalo ko siya binubwisit,” said the Rain or Shine star.
Lee recalled another moment in the game when Romeo lost his balance and was left kneeling on the floor before he was fouled by Rain or Shine big man JR Quinahan.
“Nakita ko yun. Sabi ko kay JR na nakaharap si Terrence, ‘Bakit mo pa finoul? Kahit nakaluhod yan, titira yan'... lalong nagalit (si Romeo),” Lee said laughing.
Romeo, himself a trash-talker in college who got involved in an infamous 'wet handshake' incident with De La Salle star Jeron Teng, admitted Lee's taunts got into him.
“Na-frustrate din kasi ako. Wala tayong magagawa dun. Kasama sa basketball 'yun,” said the reigning UAAP MVP. “Hindi ako nasanay na binu-bully kaya nanibago lang ako.
“Saka hindi rin kasi ako yung uri na uurong sa ganun. Pero kahit kanino naman gawin yung ganung bagay pag-takot ka walang mangyari sa iyo,” Romeo added.
Humbling as it may be, Romeo said the experience will help make him a better player.
“Marami akong natutunan (sa encounter na 'yun). Kaya next time, mas magiging handa ako at mag-pe-prepare,” said the outspoken cager.
“Sadya lang siguro na hindi ko pa time at hindi ko pa makuha yung totoong laro ko. Marami pa akong hindi nakukuha. Sobrang kaunti pa ng experience ko saka bata pa naman ako,” he added.
Meanwhile, Lee said he sees his younger self in Romeo, who he feels has the potential to become one of the league's top stars - so long as he matures.
“Kailangan lang niyang matutunan yung little things, gaya ng maturity. Tiyak ko magiging sobrang galing nung bata na yun,” he said.
“Saka dapat hindi siya parang bata na pag may sinabi sa kanya, papatulan na niya agad. Kasi pro na ito. Hindi dapat mainitin ulo mo,” Lee added.