Second generation player Kobe Paras will follow in his father’s footsteps in the University of the Philippines by donning the Maroon shirt for the upcoming University Athletic Association of the Philippines.
The 20-year old Paras, son of former pro star Benjie who was the last Maroon to lift UP to a UAAP championship in 1986, announced his decision yesterday in an official statement released by the UP men’s basketball team.
With this, Paras became the latest blue-chip recruit of UP after also securing the services of Ricci Rivero, who transferred from La Salle earlier this year.
“I look forward to the challenge of helping make the Fighting Maroons a better basketball team, and the challenge of helping myself become a better student,” he said.
Paras is coming off a roller coaster ride in United States where he attempted to pursue his NBA dream by playing high school basketball in LA Cathedral and Middlebrooks Academy before committing to University of California Los Angeles (UCLA).
He then made U-turn to Creighton University, also a US-NCAA Division I School, where he saw limited action in 2016, before transferring to California State Northridge University where he was supposed to undergo a one-year residency last year.
However, coach Reggie Theus had been axed by the Matadors, leading to Paras’ departure and announcement that he was jumping to professional basketball right away.
After coming home to reconsider his options this summer, Paras spent his time with the Gilas Pilipinas cadet program before deciding to join the revamped UP squad.
But Paras, a member of the Asian Games-bound Philippine team along with the core of Talk ‘N Text, said his decision was more than just basketball.
“The University of the Philippines is the most respected educational institution in the country. The attraction of UP is not just its basketball program, which gets better each year, but the world-class education it is known for.”
In Diliman, he has a chance to duplicate his father’s feat of lighting a championship bonfire at the Sunken Garden 32 years ago.
But he shrugged off pressure, saying he’s out not to chase Benjie’s past but create his own.
“I’m not here to chase any ghost. I’m here to enjoy my life and create my own wave,” said Kobe, whose elder brother Andre also spent his collegiate years playing for the Fighting Maroons.
Gilas cadets Paras and Rivero, will still spend one year of residency to become eligible in Season 82, adding to an intact UP core by fellow cadets Will Gozum and Juan Gomez De Liano, alongside Javi Gomez De Liano and import Bright Akhuetie.
Hitting the road barely three months before Season 81, UP is set to fly to Serbia for its first ever European training camp from July 21 to August 4.
The Fighting Maroons missed out the Final Four last year with a 6-8 record for a fifth place finish.
Paras wasn’t the only cager from US-NCAA who decided to take his talent in the UAAP as Filipino-American and another Gilas cadet Troy Rike of Wake Forest University announced his decision to join National University.
The 22-year old Rike finished a business degree at Wake Forest and will take up a master’s degree in education in NU.