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Lee’s wish

Has Paul Lee said goodbye to future stints with Gilas Pilipinas now that the dormant Cadets program is about to be resurrected to conform with the modified FIBA calendar and competition system starting next year?

The Rain or Shine Elasto Painters star point guard hopes that isn’t the case.

“Huwag naman sana,” Lee tells Tempo over the phone. “Sana mabigyan pa ako ng chance makalaro para sa Philippine team.”

Considered a shoo-in with the Gilas squad under coach Tab Baldwin that is on the last few weeks of preparation for the Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in early July, Lee was forced to beg off from inclusion to get treatment for his strained left knee which would require Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) injections, extended rest and extensive strengthening therapy.

He dropped by Gilas practice last week at the Meralco gym and told Baldwin of his decision.

“Saglit lang kami nag-usap, mga five minutes siguro, at pareho namin na-express na sayang na opportunity,” says Lee of the meeting. “Sabi namin sana someday magkatugma yung pangangailangan nila at condition ko.”

Recent pronouncements made by the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipininas could, however, temporarily set aside any forthcoming reunion.

With the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) making key changes in its calendar, among them mandating a two-year qualification period for each World Cup, starting in 2019, with six windows per qualifier (Nov, Feb, June, Sept, Nov, Feb), disruption in the schedule of the Philippine Basketball Association, which supplies talent to the national team, is imminent.

Under such constraints, the SBP, through its president Manny V. Pangilinan, deemed it timely to revive the Cadets program which former national coach Rajko Toroman launched in 2011 with amateurs like Greg Slaughter, Jvee Casio and Chris Tiu only to be shelved a short time after.

The latest edition Cadets pool hopes to include top amateurs like Kiefer Ravena, Mac Belo and Kevin Ferrer, who will hold off, under the proposed plan, from applying for PBA drafting this August to suit up for the national team for a yet unspecified period.

With PBA players reckoned to become increasingly unavailable for Philippine team duty due to the conflict between the pro calendar and that of international play, the Cadets will be fielded in instead of the pros starting with the 2017 FIBA Asia Championship.

Lee, who starts treatment today for the knee which he hurt during the Philippine Cup, lauds the Cadets initiative but believes PBA players remain the country’s best bet in international competition.

“Kahit papa’no, nandoon sa PBA ang mga beterano at magagaling nating players; diyan naman talaga tayo kumukuha ng manlalaro para sa Philippine team,” Lee says. “Sana gawin pa rin nilang option ang PBA. Sa schedule ng mga tournaments lang naman yan siguro magkakatalo e.”