MANILA, Philippines – Kobe Paras shocked fans last March 9 when he announced that he was leaving California State University, Northridge (CSUN) to turn professional.
Plenty criticized his decision, especially as Paras had barely played collegiate basketball in the United States. He initially committed to University of California, Los Angeles before leaving for Creighton University. There, he averaged only 4.7 minutes per game, and scored a total of 20 points in 15 contests.
The former La Salle Greenhills standout then transferred to CSUN, and spent the past year serving his residency. There was every reason to think that Paras would shine with the Matadors, as he was looking forward to being coached by Reggie Theus.
Theus, however, was fired on March 7. Two days later, Paras announced that he would turn pro.
"A lot of people think that when someone says pro, it's NBA right away," Paras said Monday during his homecoming press conference in Crowne Plaza.
For Paras, this is not the case. "Pro means any and every professional league out there," he said.
"There's a lot, there's one in China, there's one in Europe, the PBA, NBA, so there's a lot out there. So when I said I'm going pro, it's just me leaving college," Paras clarified.
"Because I've been in college for two, three years, not getting to play, and the year that I was going to play, my coach got fired. So I think it's just time for me to go pro and to see other options," he added.
His father, Benjie, understands Kobe's predicament.
"Dati pa siya kinukuha ni Reggie Theus. Okay na sana eh. He’s ready, excited to play for this year, then the coach got fired. As an athlete naman, I fully understand that the boy just wanted to play," said the older Paras.
"You were there without your family and the only thing that will keep you going is playing. That's the reason why you're there. Now you're not playing and you don't know whats going to happen, who will be the next coach. The problem is CSUN, a lot of players left din, not only him," he added.
Benjie thus asked his son what he wanted to do. Kobe knew that he no longer wanted to play for the school, but would love to suit up for the Philippine national team.
Given the situation, Benjie decided to bring his son home, with help from Gilas Pilipinas-backer Chooks-to-Go. Kobe arrived in Manila early Monday morning, and will report to his first practice with the Gilas Cadets Monday night.
According to Benjie, he will simply support whatever decision his son will make. At this point in Kobe's career, Benjie has no intention of pushing the youngster into doing something he does not want to do.
"I don't want to force him," said Benjie. "Mahirap."
"If you're going to look at it, itong Gilas playing for FilOil (FilOil Flying V Premier Cup). And then, the next, if there will be a possibility for him to play, it will be on the (FIBA) 3x3 (World Cup). After that, Jones Cup, Asian Games, and then SEA Games again," he added.
"It depends on the coach on where he's going to play so right now, we don't really know. As of now, sabi niya, he just wants to play."
No pro team yet
Kobe has yet to commit to any club. Right now, his full focus is on the Gilas Cadets' campaign in the FilOil preseason tilt, which starts on Saturday against Ateneo de Manila University.
What's for sure is that the younger Paras is open to any professional league – be it the PBA, the Euroleague, or even the G-League back in the United States.
"Just like what I said, I'm focusing first on the FilOil Cup, and whatever pro teams approach, we'll discuss it. But it's not a final decision that I'm going to a certain pro team," he said.
Paras also wants it known that there is no chance of him going back to school to play for a collegiate team.
"I'm going back to school one day to get my degree," he said. "But to play for a college team, that's done."
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