Benjie Paras returns to basketball

by Dennis Gasgonia,

Posted at Sep 26 2013 09:08 PM | Updated as of Sep 28 2013 03:04 AM

Former PBA superstar-turned-TV actor Benjie Paras

MANILA – Former PBA superstar-turned-TV actor Benjie Paras is grateful to be given the opportunity to return to basketball.

Paras hasn’t played basketball since leaving the PBA in 2003 as he juggled his time between raising his sons Andre and Kobe and working as a comedian in various TV programs.

But in 2012, the ex-shell Turbo Charger renewed his love for basketball when he became one of the assistant coaches of the San Beda Red Lions.

“Ang sa akin kasi hindi ko inisip magretire,” Paras said in Anthony Taberna’s “Tapatan ni Tunying” on Thursday.

“Luckily last year, si Ronnie Magsanoc, kinuhang coach ng San Beda. So sinama niya ako, kumbaga bumalik yung knowledge ko sa basketball.”

Paras stayed behind as part of the Lions’ coaching staff even as Magsanoc left the team after the 88th NCAA season.

He was one of the youngest players ever to join the PBA when he was drafted by Shell at the age of 20.

Despite ably steering the UP Fighting Maroons to win the UAAP Championship in 1986, many people doubted if he was ready to join the professional league.

“[It was] 1989 noong naglaro ako sa PBA and I was only 20 years old. So maraming nagsasabing ‘'Wag muna, masyado kang bata, hinog sa pilit,’” recalled Paras. “Nag-aaral pa ko non, third year college pa lang ako sa UP, nagpa-draft na ko sa PBA.”

But Paras was able to prove his detractors wrong by becoming the only PBA player to win both the Rookie of the Year and the Most Valuable Player awards in 1989.

“Ayun napatunayan ko na eksakto lang ang pasok ko sa PBA.”

He also remembered contemplating leaving school after getting his first P1 million-paycheck as a professional basketball player.

Paras said that back then, he felt he no longer needed to finish his studies.

“Tawag ako agad sa nanay ko sa Australia eh, sabi ko 'Ma, may pera na ko. Ano, may gusto ka[ng ipabili]?' Sabi n'ya, 'wala na. Ang gusto ko lang gumraduate ka,'" he said.

"Kasi ayaw ko nang mag-aral noon, pero sabi ko nga 'yun ang gusto n'ya. Nakagraduate ako noong 1991."

He spent 14 years in the PBA, reaping numerous citations including two MVP awards (1989, 1999) and PBA All-Star MVP award (1994, 1999).

He was also named as part of the PBA Mythical First Team five times.

In 2003, he suffered an injury that required an operation. But because he was raising his kids by himself, he decided to quit his job as a professional basketball player.

“Kasi na-injure na ko noon pero pwede pa naman akong magpaopera sa States, hindi ko naman maiwan ang mga bata. Kumbaga part ng sacrifice talaga ito.”

By then, his TV career started to pick up, allowing him to figure in numerous TV projects.

Paras said taking on funny guy roles came natural to him.

“Magulo na ko high school palang… ‘yun ang magandang parte, ‘pag nakausap mo ko at napanood mo ko, iisa [ako],” he said.

Paras said he owes much of his success to basketball, which is why he sees his coaching job as an opportunity to repay what he gained from the sport.

“Tumutulong-tulong ako to give back kung anong na-achieve ko dati,” he said.