Exclusive: UCLA-bound Kobe Paras looks to keep improving

By Steve Angeles, ABS-CBN North Amnerica Bureau

Oct. 14, 2014

LOS ANGELES, California – Filipino basketball fans remember Benjie Paras, the “Tower of Power,” as one of the best players in Philippine basketball. And now one of his sons is making his own mark – not just in the Philippines but in the United States.

Just three miles away from the Staples Center where Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers play, another Kobe is taking Los Angeles by storm.

Two years from now, 6-foot-6 Cathedral High School junior guard Kobe Paras will be playing collegiate basketball at the prestigious University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).

The son of the PBA legend, Kobe announced his decision to commit verbally to UCLA after several other universities also tried to recruit him.

“It was a really good experience, knowing I’m just a kid from the Philippines,” said Kobe. “I didn’t even know this was going to happen, so I just feel really lucky and blessed that I have this chance.”

“That’s UCLA, that’s the biggest here in California, so I just wanted to commit. Ever since I was here, it’s been a good experience, so it was cool,” he added.

The 17-year-old La Salle Greenhills standout has been in the United States since December 2013, studying and playing for Cathedral High School, a private school just outside of downtown Los Angeles. He has also been gaining experience by playing with local teams.

“It’s been a great experience. Hirap talaga ang parents na pumunta dito, but it’s really cool and it’s all worth it,” said Kobe. “I got used to the homesickness already, and I keep in touch with my parents every day, so it’s cool.”

A member of the national team pool, known for his high-flying dunks and shooting skills, Paras spends most of his time in training in an effort to improve all aspects of his game.

“The style in the Philippines and here, the way they play, is really different. Like here, they’re taller, more physical,” said Kobe. “In the Philippines, they’re short, quick, and physical, so getting my game right was one thing that I do. I guess I adjusted well.”

His coach, William Middlebrooks, said Kobe has “consistently gotten better.”

“He’s figured out the speed of the game, how that’s played. His athleticism, how to get his shot off, how to do certain moves,” Middlebrooks said. “(He has also been) expanding on his defense and passes, just trying to make him a more complete player.”

Recently, a few Filipino-Americans have made their mark at small colleges and in the NBA, but Kobe feels there is a larger sense of Pinoy pride as a homegrown Filipino.

When he suits up as a UCLA Bruin, Kobe joins Japeth Aguilar as the only other homegrown Filipino cager to play Division 1 college ball in the United States.

“I really don’t focus on that part. I just play my game, but maybe after the game, I just realize that I’m not really playing for myself but for the country,” he said.

The high school basketball season doesn’t officially begin until December, but with regular tournaments and camps, Kobe will be on the court year-round.

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  • Juan
    15 October 2014 at 1:11 am - Reply

    He is 6’6″,17 yrs old, basketball is a game of height, he got a better future. For PH basketball team the players should maintain 6’5″ height average in order to win the regional title or Asian games.If the PH team is below 6’5″ height average, forget playing abroad, it is a waste of time and money.