MANILA, Philippines – Expectations are high for Kobe Paras when he suits up for the Philippines in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games, with Gilas Pilipinas coach Chot Reyes already branding him as the "forerunner of the youth brigade."
Fresh from a stint in the 2017 FIBA 3x3 World Cup, Paras was included in the 12-man line-up for the SEA Games in August, fulfilling one of the young player's goals.
The supremely athletic swingman is no stranger to international competitions, having represented the Philippines in youth tournaments, but he knows that the SEA Games is on a different level.
"At least now," said Paras, "I'll have an opportunity to prove myself and represent the country."
At 19 years old, Paras is the youngest member of the Philippine basketball team in the SEA Games, but Reyes sees his age as a non-issue. Indeed, the Gilas Pilipinas coach believes Paras' inclusion in the SEAG team will go a long way toward his development into the face of the national team program in the future.
"The one thing we want from Kobe is his age. We wanted him to get used to the way the men are playing, to get exposed to elite basketball," Reyes explained.
"We are building a program, and part of that is youth. You have seen (AJ) Edu, and other guys here. Kobe, I think, is going to be the frontrunner of that youth brigade," he added. "So we want a 19-year-old, at the very least, in the SEA Games."
Before going to Kuala Lumpur for the SEA Games, Paras and the rest of the Gilas team will first compete in the Jones Cup in Taiwan. There, Reyes believes Paras will face some of the toughest tests in his basketball career so far, which can only help him improve.
"In the Jones Cup, he's going to face killers in his spot – the tough Asian big men and wingmen," said Reyes. "That's going to be part of the education of Kobe."
Even as his basketball education continues, Paras made it clear that he is not forgetting his other priorities, especially when it comes to academics.
Having transferred to Cal State Northridge earlier this year, Paras will redshirt one season to comply with NCAA rules while also catching up with his studies.
"It's every night, every morning," Paras said of his summer school responsibilities. "I have to study, I have papers to do, I have quizzes. The life of a student-athlete doesn't stop."
"Sinasabi rin ni Daddy na mas importante ang grades kaysa basketball," he added, referring to his legendary father, Benjie Paras.
"The ball's gonna stop one day, so I need to have a Plan B in life."
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