MANILA, Philippines—Kobe Paras has nothing but respect for national team head coach Chot Reyes, even if he does not necessarily agree with the veteran mentor's opinion regarding Filipinos who played in the US NCAA.
Reyes raised eyebrows recently when he asserted that "no Filipino . . . went out to play in the US NCAA (and) became a better player."
The national team coach made his stand clear during the homecoming press conference of the Batang Gilas, amid speculation that some of the players — including 7-foot-1 teenager Kai Sotto — might draw attention from US NCAA scouts when they compete in the FIBA Under-17 Basketball World Cup later this year in Argentina.
"Name me one (Filipino) player who came to the US NCAA and became a better player," Reyes challenged. "I will think long and hard about it."
"We've had a lot of history. We had very recent examples and past examples," he added. "But we have yet to see a Filipino go to NCAA Division 1, and became a better player."
In recent years, the most high-profile Filipinos who took their talents to the US NCAA are Japeth Aguilar and Paras. Aguilar transferred from Ateneo de Manila University to Western Kentucky in 2007, and played two injury-riddled seasons for the Hilltoppers before returning to the Philippines.
Paras, for his part, famously went to the United States as a 15-year-old, verbally committed to UCLA, then de-committed from the Bruins and instead played for Creighton as a freshman. He left the Bluejays after just one season and transferred to California State University, Northridge.
But he wound up not playing a single minute for the Matadors, instead announcing last March that he intends to turn professional.
Paras, who is now back in Manila to play for the Gilas Cadets in the FilOil Flying V Preseason Cup, understands where Reyes is coming from.
"That's just coach Chot's opinion, and his opinion is whatever he thinks," said Paras.
However, the 20-year-old swingman does not agree with Reyes, even if his own NCAA career did not pan out the way he wanted.
"For me naman, I feel like I got better, so I'm happy about that," said Paras, who played in only 15 games for Creighton, averaging less than 5 minutes per game.
"People are going to talk bad about (Reyes), but that's just good criticism," he added. "He's just saying that people aren't gonna do better. Just like for me – I didn't play, but that was not my control. Me not playing in Creighton was not my control, my coach getting fired was not my control."
Ultimately, Paras hopes that there will be Filipino players who can prove Reyes wrong and find success in Division 1.
"I understand where he's coming from," Paras stressed. "But at the same time, hopefully that motivates more athletes to prove him wrong, because I really want Kai and whoever else to make it."
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