It would mean plenty for Paul Lee to see upstarts Fran Yu and RK Ilagan go as far as they can in their respective careers — not just by reaching the PBA, but by one day representing the Philippines on the global stage.
The PBA star has always been vocal of how proud he is that he comes from Tondo, and it brings him even more joy to see other players from the district, such as Yu and Ilagan, try to make names for themselves in the sport.
“Sobrang blessed ako na makita sila na ganon ‘yung mangyayari. Sobrang happy ako kapag nangyari ‘yun kasi taga-Manila ako, taga-Tondo ako,” Lee told Tiebreaker Vodcasts’ The Prospects Pod, presented by SMART and supported by Chris Sports.
“Siyempre ayoko sa akin lang huling matatapos eh.”
Lee is undeniably the most prominent cager to come out of Tondo in his generation. The former University of the East star has tasted plenty of success in his ongoing career.
Crowned Rookie of the Year in 2012, Lee has won three PBA championships with one Finals MVP award; a Best Player of the Conference plum; eight All-Star citations; and two Mythical First Team inclusions.
And he has not only made a mark in Asia’s pioneering pro league; Lee has also gone far on the international stage. He played for Gilas Pilioinas in the last two editions of the prestigious FIBA World Cup.
And he also has his very own moment in a Pilipinas uniform. Who would ever forget his cold-blooded free throws that helped the Filipino dribblers cop the bronze medal in the 2014 FIBA Asia Cup?
Without question, Lee has made it. But there’s no doubt in his mind, too, that the likes of Ilagan and Yu can make it big, and he assured that he will be their guiding light should they need him as they tread the path to their dreams.
“Nandito ako, willing ako i-share ‘yung mga pinagdaanan ko, kung paano ako nakarating sa ganitong sitwasyon. Sana hindi maputol ‘yung chain… Kumbaga sa akin, tapos mapasa ko sa kanila,” he said.
And he also hopes that Ilagan and Yu, two of the best guards in collegiate basketball today, will impart their own wisdom and experience to the next generation of ballers from Tondo.
“Then ‘pag may dumating na time na may ibang player pa na taga-Tondo, sana mapasa din nila. Continue lang. Kumbaga kung kaya naman ng ibang tao sa ibang lugar, bakit sa Tondo hindi pwede?
“Share lang siguro and tulungan lang kung ano ‘yung pwede namin maibigay, kung ano ‘yung pwede kong maibigay o mai-share sa kanila para makatulong sa career nila,” Lee said.
And one of the lessons the seasoned cager taught the two young guns was simple: have the right attitude.
“Yung pinaka-advice ko lang is right attitude, kasi ‘yun ‘yung pinakamagse-separate sa ‘yo sa ibang player. I mean, alam naman natin na sobrang daming player na sobrang talented pero ‘yung attitude nila, hindi swak talaga eh.
“Kapag sinabing attitude, nandiyan ‘yung extra work mo, ‘yung ‘di ka uma-absent sa practice, ‘yung mga gimmick, ganyan, kasi yun talaga yung sumisira ng career ng isang player — kapag kinain ka nung fame mo na nasa college ka pa lang. ‘Yun ‘yung pinakamabigat kasi siyempre, ‘pag college ka, sobrang laki ng fan base mo eh. Buong school naka-suporta sa ‘yo eh. So, ‘yun ‘yung pinakamabigat doon. Kailangan alamin mo kung ano ‘yung goal mo sa buhay, kung bakit mo ginagawa ‘yung pagba-basketball,” he said.
Ilagan and Yu took in everything that the 31-year-old gunslinger said like a sponge. And the two vowed to do the best that they can in their hopes of turning all their dreams into reality.
“‘Yung mga sinabi mo sa’min… Sa akin naman, alam ko naman na ‘yung gagawin talaga para ma-achieve ko ‘yung goal ko, para masundan ko kayo nila Kuya Roi [Sumang] na makapuntang PBA,” the San Sebastian ace said.
“Salamat kasi nandiyan ka. Kayo ‘yung mga tinitingala namin, tapos nakaka-interact pa namin kayo,” said Yu, who steered the Letran Knights to the NCAA Season 95 championship, on the other hand.
“Susundan na lang namin ‘yung mga yapak niyo na nandiyan kayo sa pro, saka mas gagawin namin mas lalong proud ‘yung lugar natin na Maynila para makapasa kami sa next generation.”