CURRENT and former PBA players are raving about Kobe Paras after seeing for themselves the giant leep in the teen sensation's game since deciding to play high school ball in the United States.
Paras, 17, saw action in the Nike Rise Legacy Night on Saturday when he played for Destiny, a team of collegiate and young PBA standouts that went up against Legacy, composed of veteran and retired PBA players including his father, two-time pro league MVP Benjie.
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And those who shared the court with Paras said they were definitely impressed with the teen prodigy.
“Grabe ‘yung bata. Ang laki ng improvement from the last time I saw him,” said four-time PBA MVP Alvin Patrimonio, who played for the Legacy squad in the All-Star game. “Iba talaga kapag superb ang training at ‘yung exposure sa States.”
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Paras wowed the crowd and even co-players with high-flying moves during the game. He also put on a show during the slam dunk exhibition at halftime when he leaped over Jeron Teng and Nico Salva.
Allan Caidic echoed fellow PBA legend Patrimonio's sentiment, saying Paras’ stint with LA Cathedral in high school definitely helped him improve his game.
“Nagkakumpiyansa siya kasi kalaban niya puro Amerikano,” said Caidic, now an assistant coach for the De La Salle Green Archers in the UAAP. “Good for him and good luck sa kanya.”
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Barangay Ginebra cager LA Tenorio, meanwhile, believes only Kobe can beat his father Benjie’s record in 1989 of being the only rookie MVP in the PBA.
Still, Tenorio hopes Kobe will aim high and try to become the first homegrown Filipino player in the NBA.
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“He is the future,” Tenorio said. “Sana siya rin ‘yung maka-break sa tatay niya na Rookie MVP. It’s going to be a good story sa buhay nila.
“Pero sana, first Filipino player sana siya na maglaro sa NBA. Kita mo naman ‘yung athleticism at versatility niya.”
Paras is set to join NCAA Division I side University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Bruins for college in 2016. And for the current and former PBA players, playing in the NCAA is a big step for Kobe's NBA dream.
“He is still young. Marami pa siyang matututunan playing outside his country and playing with a lot of potential NBA players in the States,” said Tenorio.
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Patrimonio is one with all Filipinos hoping for Kobe to succeed.
“Dito lang kami just hoping and praying for his success,” Patrimonio said. “Just keep on working hard and stay humble. I’m sure malayo ang mararating ng bata.”