Gilas mission accomplished, Kobe Paras leaves for US to kick-start stalled NCAA career
Kobe Paras says the experience of playing for Gilas against older and bigger players will go a long way as he returns to the US to resume his US NCAA career. Jaime Campos

AFTER a grueling schedule that saw him play for the national team from France to Taipei to Kuala Lumpur, Kobe Paras shifts his focus to his career in the US NCAA.

With the gold medal in the Southeast Asian Games secure, Paras, 19, leaves for California on Thursday night to catch up on his studies as well as his new teammates at Cal State Northridge.

The son of PBA legend Benjie will be bringing with him a wealth of experience playing against bigger and older foes over the past two months - which should go a long way in his development as a player.

"When I go to the States, it’s strictly business na. College," Paras said during the homecoming lunch for the SEA Games-winning Gilas team at Marco Polo hosted by Chooks to Go.

"It’s not like here na lalaban ako para sa bayan. Doon, lalaban ako para sa sarili ko and the future. I love my teammates, I love everyone and I can’t wait to get back there."

[See No LeBron-Kobe Paras meeting this time as teen leaves for US]

In the course of his tour of duty with the Philippines that took him to the Fiba 3x3 World Championships to the Jones Cup to the SEA Games, Paras had to accomplish some of the school work online.

But the 6-foot-6 high-flyer said the sacrifices were worth it, especially after an impressive performance in the SEA Games where he finally showed a glimpse of his full potential.

"It’s been a blessing," said Paras, who rarely saw action in his first and only season with Creighton in the US NCAA before making the move to Cal State Northridge.

"There are not that much 19 year olds who go through what I go through. I’m just blessed to mature at such a young age. People don’t understand that since France and the Jones Cup, I had classes online. Literally had to do a lot of school work.

"Masaya ako kasi nga dati ko pang sinasabi na gusto kong maglaro talaga sa mga 5-on-5," he added. "So binigyan ako ng chance and I made the most out of it. I hope I made the Filipinos proud."

Follow the writer on Twitter: @janbballesteros