ALREADY without former head coach Pido Jarencio and star Jeric Teng, the University of Santo Tomas Tigers are in danger of losing another integral piece in Paulo Lorenzo Pe, who said he intends to skip the coming UAAP season to focus on his studies.
The wide-bodied Pe told Spin.ph he is now 80-percent certain of not playing in Season 77 since he is determined to focus on his studies in his fifth year as a civil engineering student at the Espana-based school.
“Gusto ko pa talagang lumaro, kaso last year ko na sa course ko kaya syempre, mas gusto kong mag-graduate on time and with good grades,” said Pe while practicing with the Blackwater Sports' D-League team at the SGS gym in Quezon City on Wednesday.
“Sa ngayon, 80-20 ang chances na hindi na ako lalaro, pero kinakausap ko pa mga professors ko kung mabibigyan ako ng consideration,” he added. “Pero pag feeling ko hindi ko na talaga kaya, mas pa-prioritize ko studies ko."
The 6-4 Tigers forward is a son of construction magnate John Paul Pe, who owns the Archipelago Builders as well as the Peach Blossoms Restaurant in Quezon City.
Pe said he is bracing for a rigorous final year at UST where he will have to work on his thesis and design projects.
“Plan ko lang kasi talaga maglaro two years eh. Pero dahil mahal ko teammates ko pinipilit kong maglaro ng mas matagal. Pero kailangang pumili ako ngayon - 'yung present ko as basketball player o future ko as civil engineer,” said Pe.
“Full support naman parents ko. In fact, they will be behind me kung ano man pipiliin ko,” added the former Ateneo Blue Eaglet.
Pe has been in constant dialogue with the new coaching staff of UST headed by head coach Bong dela Cruz. He was also seen with an official of one of UST’s sponsors Gerry’s Grill, Christian Cheng, who was trying to persuade Pe to stay in the team.
“Basta, right now and as it has been, studies ko talaga ang priority ko. It’s my future eh,” said Pe, who has not been practicing with the Tigers for a month now.
UST team manager Rudy Yu said Pe's impending withdrawal will be a big blow to the Tigers, given their already shallow frontline.
“Medyo magkukulang talaga kami sa ilalim. Malaki maitutulong niya sa big men namin. Kaso hindi naman kami hahadlang sa pagtupad niya ng pangarap niya, lalo na studies niya 'yun,” said Yu.
“At the end of the day, desisyon niya pa rin ang masusunod,” added the Dickies owner.
Another Tigers star Tiger Kevin Ferrer said: “Sayang talaga. Malaking bagay si Paulo sa amin, kapalitan yan ni Karim (Abdul) eh. Siya pa naman ang bumabantay ng mga foreigner ng kabilang team.
“Andami na ngang nawala sa amin, sina Jeric (Teng), Clark Bautista, Edcor Marata, Bryan So at Robert Hainga. Mabigat talaga,” he added, shaking his head.