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Gilas call-up Paul Lee remains focused on Hotshots goal



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While Paul Lee feels blessed and honored to be included in the Gilas Pilipinas training pool anew, he is putting it aside in the meantime for a much more important goal.

Lee wants to lead Magnolia to another Finals appearance after they marched into the semi-finals of the 2018 Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup with a thrilling 103-99 win over Blackwater on Tuesday night at the SMART Araneta Coliseum.

After a Finals stint in this year’s Philippine Cup, Lee and the rest of the Hotshots are eyeing another one, with a looming best-of-five duel against either defending champions Barangay Ginebra San Miguel or the NLEX Road Warriors, who are still battling as of writing time.

“We have a chance na makapaglaro ulit sa Finals. Yun lang. Feeling ko, if you wanna win championship, you have to pass through kung sino man mananalo dito (Ginebra-NLEX),” the two-time PBA champion said.

“So, yun lang. Siguro, prepare lang kami nang maigi.”

At halftime in their ongoing match against Blackwater, Lee was named to Guiao’s newest 20-man pool for the nearing fifth window of the 2019 FIBA World Cup Asian Qualifiers.

The training camp starts on November 12, while Lee and the Hotshots will be in the middle of the best-of-five semi-final series against a still-unknown opponent.

“Sa ngayon, focus muna ako sa team, sa Magnolia kasi alam ko may games pa eh. Start na ng semis agad,” the seven-year pro added. “Yun muna yung focus ko ngayon kasi mahirap kapag pinagsabay mo yan.

“Baka maguluhan ka lang.”

Still, Lee is ready to embrace doing double-duty once the Gilas camp coincides with the semi-finals.

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“So, ready lang ako lagi. Hintay lang kami ng call kung kelan start ng practice,” shared the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup Mythical Team member.

“Embrace mo lang lahat kasi pag inisip mong mahirap, lalo ka lang mahihirapan nyan. Enjoy mo lang yung every moment na nandoon ka sa national team kasi hindi naman natin alam kung kailan mangyayari lahat yun.”

And while Lee is grateful for another call-up, he joked about being a non-factor this time, as he is set to join possibly the most loaded and talented backcourt the Philippines has ever assembled.

“Parang ‘di na ’ko kailangan.”

Indeed, Lee is looking at a packed guard rotation with Scottie Thompson, Stanley Pringle, and Alex Cabagnot alongside returning veterans Jayson Castro and and LA Tenorio.

Lee doesn’t see it as a problem, though, but as another learning opportunity for him, like when he joined forces with Castro, Tenorio, and Jimmy Alapag back in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.

“Mapasama ka lang sa grupo na iyon. Malaking bagay na. Parang nung before, nung sa FIBA World. Kasama ko sina Kap. Jimmy, LA, Jayson. Marami ako natutunan doon. Siguro, ito ang chance ko ulit na matuto sa kanila kasi sila ang nakakaalam eh,” he reflected.

“Alam mo yun. Kung hindi man ako ma-lineup. Okay lang ako doon. Kasi sila talaga yung nakakaalam. Sila yung mas may experience sa international game. Ready lang ako makipag-compete sa kanila every day.”