MANILA, Philippines -- Magnolia star Paul Lee has always taken pride in his roots, and he is not shy about sharing his experiences and wisdom to the up-and-coming basketball players who also hail from Tondo, Manila.
In a recent appearance on "The Prospects" podcast, Lee offered some advice to San Sebastian College's RK Ilagan and Colegio de San Juan de Letran's Fran Yu, two of the best guards in the NCAA who count the player known as the "Angas ng Tondo" as their idol.
The 31-year-old Lee, a three-time PBA champion, told Yu and Ilagan to have the "right attitude," which, he said, is what will eventually separate them from other players.
"Alam naman natin na sobrang daming player na sobrang talented, pero 'yung attitude nila, hindi swak talaga eh," said Lee, who stressed the importance of hard work and avoiding the pitfalls of fame.
"Wala talagang sikreto, kasi talagang hard work lang eh," he said. "Alam naman natin lahat kung ano 'yung dapat gawin eh."
He also specifically advised Ilagan to avoid playing in commercial tournaments, or "ligang labas." The San Sebastian guard was caught playing in a "ligang labas" in Season 94, which forced the Stags to forfeit two victories and dented their Final 4 hopes.
Ilagan has been nothing but apologetic for his mistakes, and Lee told him to put all his focus on San Sebastian in the upcoming NCAA season, which will be his last.
"Bawas-bawasan mo 'yung pagliligang labas mo muna," Lee advised. "I mean, hindi naman masama kasi nanggaling din ako doon. Nanggaling naman ako doon sa sitwasyon mo, pero noong last year ko sa UAAP, I stopped playing na sa ligang labas."
He instead told Ilagan to hone his skills in the PBA D-League and in the NCAA, and to do extra work in practices instead of playing in commercial leagues.
"'Yung ligang labas, nandiyan pa rin 'yan, hindi mawawala 'yan," he added.
Lee also expressed his admiration for Yu, who went from little-used guard in the University of the East (UE) to the Finals MVP when the Knights won the NCAA Season 95 crown.
"Kailangan 'yung fire mo na 'yun hindi mawawala sa 'yo, kasi 'yun 'yung pinakaimportante," Lee told Yu. "Kumabaga, gawin mong motivation 'yung nangyari sa 'yo sa UE, 'yung mga nanlalait sa 'yo before."
"Tuloy mo lang 'yung mga hard work mo, and balik tayo sa priorities -- kailangan alamin mo 'yun. Same kayo ni RK, para hindi kayo mawala talaga at makuha niyo 'yung dream niyo na makapag-PBA," he said.
For Lee, it is a source of tremendous pride to serve as an inspiration to Yu and Ilagan. The pair has made no secret of their admiration for Lee and Roi Sumang, the two most high-profile guards to come out of Tondo, Manila.
Lee is hopeful that in time, Yu and Ilagan can also inspire the next generation of ballers from their area.
"Sana hindi maputol 'yung chain," he said. "Kumbaga, sa akin tapos mapasa ko sa kanila."
"Then, 'pag may dumating na time na may ibang player pa na taga-Tondo, sana mapasa din nila. Continue lang," he added. "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."
(For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website).