KOBE PARAS has left the lush campus of the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman to seek greener pastures, so to speak.
East West Private—the agency that has cornered young promising talents with eastern-western roots and has also helped place and push notable National Basketball Association (NBA) All-Stars and Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) standouts in various advantageous opportunities, and organized big basketball events as well—has invited the UP Fighting Maroon to join its stable, and he has accepted.
Two years ago, the younger second-generation Paras had brought a lot of excitement and promise to the Fighting Maroons community, helping to bring Maroon Mania to heights never reached before. He averaged 17.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, wowed the crowd with his fearless forays into the shaded area, most of the time with great success.
In just one season (2019) he had become part of the Mythical Five of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP). He was a certified collegiate superstar. But as for the Big Dream of winning a championship for UP, last won 35 years ago by the team his Dad Benjie had played in, that didn’t come in Season 82. Perhaps the following year?
But then, Covid-19 struck. Not only has it derailed two regular seasons of UAAP action. It has kept a lot of athletes’ and teams’ futures in limbo.
For most athletes, there’s no other way but to sleep through limbo. For a few lucky ones, there are other options. Kobe is one of them. Now he is gone.
If there is anyone who should be shocked or affected most by Kobe’s departure, it would have to be UP men’s basketball team (UPMBT) head coach Bo Perasol, right?
But in true Bo Perasol fashion—calm and cool as a cucumber—Coach Bo had only good things to say about Kobe’s Decision. “He is too talented to be kept waiting,” he told Tiebreaker Times. On the official Twitter account of the UPMBT, he said : “It’s not every season that one gets to convince a talent like Kobe to be part of a growing program like the UPMBT. He took a chance on us and played his heart out.”
“There are two ways to look at Kobe’s departure,” the former UP Fighting Maroon-turned-coach told us a day later. “The impact on the team would be, first: we are going to lose our primary source of scoring and (an) offense creator, one of our best last lines of defense, and one of the leaders of our team. However, as a second thought, it could also be a great opportunity for our young batch of players to create their own team character and culture to carry on for the next three to five years.”
Bo, who always sees the proverbial silver lining, was referring, of course, to the new talent acquisitions of the Fighting Maroons during—or in spite of—the pandemic: CJ Cansino from the University of Santo Tomas Growling Tigers, Carl Tamayo and Gerry Abadiano from the National University Bullpups, Miguel Tan from Xavier School, Alonso Tan and Anton Eusebio from Canada and Youth Gilas cadet RC Calimag, among others. The Fighting Maroons Family at the moment also includes AJ Madrigal, Bright Akhuetie, Brix Ramos, CJ Catapusan, James Spencer, JC Cabahug, Jboy Gob, Javi Gomez De Liaño, Javi Gomez De Liaño, Lorenzo Battad, Malick Diouf, Mai Cagulangan, Matt Santiago, Noah Webb, Polo Labao and Ricci Rivero.
It’s a whole new playing field, Bo acknowledges. Covid has changed the rules of the game and made life more challenging and frustrating for everyone. “I’m really not sure about the resumption of college sports this year. Our hope though of finally ending our championship drought doesn’t wane for a moment. We are all locked-in in that quest.”
The team still trains regularly to a certain extent and stays connected, Bo reveals. “We were able to create group workouts as allowed by the IATF with our strength-and-conditioning and skills coaches before we experienced the second wave. Players who are out of the country or are in provinces have their own individual workouts too.”
The team is tight despite the irregularity in schedules. “The best venue for their sense of being a unit at this time is the virtual classroom,” he explained. “Most of them are classmates in most subjects so they collaborate among themselves in submitting requirements or just by simply passing the class. Those who are in Metro Manila have regular workouts together too.”
The coaching staff is pretty tight as well, according to Bo. “We’re tighter than ever, perhaps even more so than before the pandemic happened. We got to play golf once a week when it was finally allowed. Ricci Rivero, who now also plays golf, gets to join us when his schedule lets him. He has committed to play for the next season, whenever that may be.”
Kobe’s absence, definitely will be missed in the Fighting Maroons locker room. He had made good friends in this company and had been both a spiritual leader at times and a lovable, fun guy at others.
But Bo would rather look at Kobe as a gift rather than a loss. “I’ve always said this to Kobe. God has gifted you with so much in life: superb athletic ability, innate intelligence, good looks, and the fierce hunger to succeed. These are all meant to be shared with others. Your gift to Him is to hone all of these with His guidance, not just for your own self, but to make His light shine through you.”
“We’re just so happy we were part of Kobe’s journey,” Bo concluded. “We thank him and we wish him the best.”