ANDRE Paras has taken almost everyone by surprise not only by returning to basketball, but by coming back a much better player.
Not his brother Kobe.
Kobe Paras, the younger of the two sons of former PBA rookie-MVP Benjie, said he never had any doubt that Andre still had basketball blood running through his veins even during the times that he was carving a name in show business as an actor.
"I knew hindi mawawala yung mahal n'ya sa basketball kasi first love n’ya 'yan eh," said Kobe, the pride he feels about his brother very palpable as he spoke to reporters while waiting to board his flight to Taipei for Gilas Pilipinas' campaign in the Jones Cup.
"Everytime we talked, palagi n'ya sinasabi nami-miss n’ya basketball. So we feel so blessed na binigyan sya ng second chance ng AMA and, you see, good things are happening now.
"Pinapakita naman n’ya na kaya n'ya," Kobe added.
The 6-4 Andre, at 21 two years older than Kobe, has been a different animal since making a comeback in basketball through AMA Online Education in the PBA D-League after an underwhelming varsity career that was interrupted by the demands of his acting career.
Coming off a two-year layoff, Andre averaged an eye-popping 18 rebounds on top of four blocks and 7.3 points through three games for AMA. He also had two games where he grabbed 22 rebounds - just seven off the league record set by Jay-R Taganas.
While coaches were taken aback, Kobe wasn't. The younger brother said he has always been a witness to Andre's basketball IQ as well as a work ethic that he said eventually rubbed off on him.
"Si Andre kasi, bata pa kami ganoon na 'yung work ethic n’ya. Sa kanya ko nga nakuha yung work ethic ko," the 6-foot-6 Kobe said. "I got 'yung hilig sa pagwo-work out sa kanya. He’s such a hard worker."
Kobe said it was not unusual for Andre to excel in rebounding and defense because he has such a deep knowledge of the game since they were young.
"Yung basketball IQ kasi ni Andre, mataas," he said. "Pag nakita ko s'ya sa D-League, ang galing pumasa at hindi s’ya yung tipong tatalon lang basta para sa rebound, ba-box out muna sya."
"Ngayon, sinasabi parang Sakuragi na nga raw si kuya eh," he beamed with pride.
Once Andre's offense keeps up with the growth of the rest of his game, Kobe has no doubt big brother will take the basketball world by storm.
Such were exactly the words of advice he gave Andre.
"He asked me what he needs to improve on. Si Andre naman, s'ya yung tipo ng player na he’s just gonna rebound, block, play defense – wala s’yang paki sa offense. Role player talaga," he said. "Kaya ang sinabi ko sa kanya, 'pag nag-improve ang offense mo at nag-mature, he’s unstoppable."
Except for rare one-on-one games, Kobe said he rarely played against Andre when they were young since the two have always played different positions - Kobe a guard and Andre a big man.
"But now, since he’s back, I wanna play against him again," he said.