Paras announced his arrival in Japan in slambang fashion, dropping 25 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including a 4-of-6 clip from beyond the arc, four dimes, and two steals in Niigata Albirex BB's 85-81 loss to Kyoto last October 2.
Then, in his back-to-back face-offs with pal Thirdy Ravena, the son of former PBA rookie-MVP Benjie Paras averaged 16 points on 41.3 percent shooting, 4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals, and 1 block, as they split with San-En NeoPhoenix.
He was impressive in Niigata's win over San-En, posting 21 points on 8-for-16 shooting, along with five boards, two dimes, two steals and two blocks.
The only blot to his campaign so far was consistency, or the lack of it. After the 25-point outing, he only hit 10 the next day. After the 21-point outbreak, he was held to a quiet 11 the next game.
Paras' performance over the weekend, though, was more even.
On Sunday night, he powered through for 18 points on a 3-of-7 clip from deep, three boards and three assists. The day before, he scored a team-high 13 markers on 4-for-13 shooting, three rebounds, a dime, a steal, and a block to average 15.5 points in the two losses to Levanga Hokkaido.
The 24-year-old forward is up by 13 percentage points from the last time he graced any competitive court.
The biggest improvement, without a doubt, was Paras' shooting from deep.
In his one-year stint with the University of the Philippines in 2019, Paras hit at a 21.6 percent clip from beyond the arc at an average of 5.2 attempts per game. Now, per RealGM, he's shooting 34.8 percent on a team-high 5.8 attempts while averaging 16 markers, 2.8 rebounds, and 2.4 dimes in six games.
Largely known as a slasher and fastbreak finisher early in his career, the 6-foot-6 high-flyer now totes a 51.6 true shooting percentage (TS%) - a measure of shooting efficiency that takes into account the cumulative value of a player's field goals, threes, and free throws.
The vastly improved shooting stroke has made him a more complete player. But his lockdown trainer revealed the improvement didn't happen overnight, saying they had been relentlessly working on these tweaks the past year.
"Since June 2020, Kobe and I have been training twice a day, everyday, to improve on his offense," coach Jolo Tamayo of True Focus Basketball shared with SPIN Life. "We barely missed a day."
It was only Kobe's travel (to the States, and to Japan) that stopped them from training seven days a week.
Tamayo said: "10-12 p.m., workout kami, tapos maghihiwalay, then 4-6 p.m. workout ulit, kasi alam naming may tinatrabaho kami," Tamayo said.
He admitted that they needed to go back to the basics in an attempt to fix the athletic forward's shooting form.
"From hand placement, thumb flick, to his elbow locking, jumpers, binreakdown namin lahat. Nag-gather kami ng clips niya from the whole [UAAP] Season 82, tapos ipinaliwanag ko sa kanya and ipinakita 'yung mga mintis niya, turnovers, inisa-isa namin numbers," Tamayo explained.
Trainer and player also revisited his foundation, such as balance hand correction, shooting path off the ball, elbows extension, and follow-throughs towards the ring.
"Nung nag-start kami, sobrang out-of-shape talaga siya, mga tira niya all over the place, off-rhythm, one-hand shooting sobrang daming reps namin ginagawa," he said
Best version of Kobe Paras yet
Although six games are too few to make a judgment, the numbers are for sure encouraging enough. Japan is witnessing the best version of Kobe Paras yet.
Roughly a decade ago, Kobe endured pressure as well as the weight of expectations from fans when he tried his luck in the US as a teen. He had a few uneventful runs at UCLA, Creighton, and Cal State Northridge.
Earlier this year, before he committed to play for Niigata, Paras again took a leap of faith and joined the Stateside den of East West Private management in Ohio. But he didn't have the chance to play competitively in his five months there.
The Kobe Paras who showed up in Japan looked an altogether different man. Early in the 2021-22 season, his name is popping constantly atop Niigata's stats sheets, sharing top billing with fellow import Rosco Allen and ex-NBA player Jeff Ayres.
Some fans have started to label this B.League season as Kobe Paras' redemption tour. Looks like it will be.
"Ever since, si Kobe sobrang gustong may patunayan sa sarili niya. Sobrang taas expectations niya for himself. Sobrang obvious na gusto niyang gumaling pa at may marating sa career niya," Tamayo shared.
"One time tinawagan ko siya nung nasa Japan na siya. Sabi ko, 'Bro congats, ayan na 'yung results ng pinaghirapan natin, nagsisimula ka,'" Tamayo said. "Tapos sumagot siya, 'This is the True Focus effect and we're just getting started.'"
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