Saturday, August 15, 2015
Kobe Paras won’t turn down Gilas Pilipinas call
UCLA-bound Kobe Paras said the other day he will stand ready and proud to represent the country if ever called to join Gilas but at the moment, his focus is to finish his last year of high school at Cathedral College in Los Angeles.
Paras, 17, said since moving to Cathedral last year, he has bulked up from 160 to 205 pounds without compromising his speed and mobility.
“The extra weight is all in the legs,” he said. “Our coach (William Middlebrooks) wants us to be in tip-top condition so we’re constantly running, doing drills. He encourages us to dunk. I’ve gotten stronger. At Cathedral, I’ve learned more about game management. I’m able to read the floor better and play more cohesively with my teammates. I used to play four with La Salle Greenhills. Now, I play one, two and three. I see myself playing two guard a lot more in my senior year.”
Paras said because the Filipino game is physical, it wasn’t difficult for him to adjust to the American way. “It’s an advantage that I’m used to playing physical,” he said. “Some guys get easily annoyed by the physicality but I just play through it.”
What Paras misses most about the Philippines are the fans. “It’s different in the Philippines because we’re all crazy about basketball,” he said. “From high school to college to the PBA to Gilas, our basketball fans are the best in the world. I think American fans are great, too, but the following in high school is different from college and the NBA.”
Playing for UCLA is a dream come true for Paras. “I was lucky to get invited by several schools like Arizona State, California at Berkeley, California State at Santa Barbara, California at Irvine, Fresno State, Portland State, Texas at Arlington but when coach Steve Alford offered UCLA, I knew it was the best school for me,” he said. “Every year, there’s only a three to four week window where college coaches and scouts watch high school players in a tournament. They talk only to the high school coaches, not the players. UCLA has brought a lot of players to the NBA like Russell Westbrook and Zach LaVine. Hopefully, I’ll be able to contribute to their program.”
Paras said before leaving for the US, his father Benjie gave him sage advice. “My dad told me to just play my game, focus, maximize every chance to play and thank God for this blessing,” he said. “I’m representing the Philippines in a foreign country so I want to make my country proud. If ever I’m asked to play for Gilas, I’ll always be ready. The national team is the best team to play for because you’re representing your country and you play against different countries. When I played at the last FIBA 3x3 U18 World Championships, I really wanted to win the slam dunk title again because we were eliminated in the team competitions and some teams weren’t giving us the credit we deserve. So when I won, I kept pointing to the Philippines on my jersey. I won it for our country.”