KOBE - Paras, not Bryant - is taking LA by storm.
The 16-year-old son of two-time PBA Most Valuable Player Benjie impressed for LA Cathedral in a high school game against Long Beach Poly in the Dermar Rozen tournament on Thursday, scoring 22 points while hitting three crucial three-pointers.
Although Paras fouled out with 48 seconds to go in a game LA Cathedral eventually lost, 50-57, he made quite an impression to merit a story from the Varsity Times issue of the Los Angeles Times titled, 'There's another player named Kobe ready to star in LA.'
His dad Benjie wasn't even aware of his son's latest exploits when Spin.ph called him up for comment, but his voice perked up over the news that Kobe is doing well in the US.
Kobe starred for La Salle Greenhills in the NCAA and won the slam-dunk title when he played for the Philippines in last year's Fiba World 3x3 championship in Jakarta, but Benjie said this latest feat by his son in the US exceeded even his own expectations.
“Syempre, happy tayo kasi unang-una nakakalaro siya internationally, pangarap niya talaga 'yan and happy ako kasi natutupad niya pangarap niya ngayon,” said the elder Paras.
“Nagugulat rin ako talaga sa kanya. Hindi ko nasusubaybayan, pero talagang nagugulat ako sa mga nababalitaan kong mga ipinapakita niya,” he said.
Paras bared that he never saw his son perform at a level which he is showing now. the Varsity Times also said Kobe has grown three inches and is now 6-foot-6 since he arrived in the States last year.
“Kahit papano naman dito sa atin iba yung laro, pero pare-pareho sila (nung mga kalaban niya). Hindi siya ganyan na nagdo-dominate,” said the PBA's only rookie-MVP awardee.
“Nalagpasan niya talaga 'yung expectations ko sa kanya,” added Paras.
While some fans are quick to daydream on Kobe’s future as an NBA prospect based on how he has been making heads turn as a high schooler in the States, Paras was quick to play down expectations.
“Player din ako dati, kaya diretso kong sasabihin na hindi ko pa iniisip ang NBA o paglalaro dun ni Kobe. Malayo pa yun,” he said.
“What I want Kobe to do now is ipagpatuloy niya 'yung pag-develop sa laro niya, nakita ko sa States last month kung gaano siya kapursigido sa training. Iba ang training nila run,” Paras added.
“Kobe has two more years in high school sa US. I want him to make the most out of it to further improve, tapos he can start charting his plans sa college. I want him to take it one game at a time,” the proud dad said. “Wala munang too much expectation.”
Kobe has committed to play for La Salle if he decides to play college ball in the Philippines, but the elder Paras said he will leave it up to his son to make the final decision.
“So sabi ko sa kanya take it one year at a time, finish your high school dyan sa States, improve your game well para may pupuntahan ka,” he said.
“Mag-decide siya na sa States lumaro o bumalik dito (for college), I’m sure dito rin maraming college teams ang willing to get him,” added Paras.
Kobe, meanwhile, also got words of encouragement from good friend and former teammate Arvin Tolentino, who said he wasn’t surprised to hear Paras dominate a high school league in the US.
“Malakas talaga si Kobe, kaya sana magtuloy-tuloy na 'yung magandang game niya sa Amerika. Sana magtuloy-tuloy din success niya para hindi na magkaroon ng need para bumalik pa siya rito sa Pilipinas,” said Tolentino.
“Kobe, kung kaya mong dyan ka na (sa US), sige sana mas okay,” said Tolentino, who believes that Paras has what it takes to bring pride to the country in the future.
Asked to compare Kobe’s physique to that of his counterparts in the US, the former San Beda stalwart explained that Paras’ athleticism gives him an edge against taller, bigger Americans.
“Lamang ng talaga nila (Americans), mas malalaki at mas malalakas katawan nila, mas athletic pero in terms of skills, hindi maiiwan si Kobe, kayang kaya ni Kobe mga yun,” he said.
“Nag champion nga sa slam dunk world si Kobe last year, di ba?” added Tolentino.