And so it begins, the journey of Kobe Paras from the Philippines to America to play basketball. The first two weeks had ups and downs, but the 6-foot-6 junior showed some toughness, resiliency and class in his opening act playing for Los Angeles Cathedral.
Committed to UCLA, Paras made a hardly overwhelming first impression last week. He scored four points on two-of-10 shooting in his opening game. Now, there probably were excuses, such as finals, lack of sleep, lack of practice. He came back in the remaining four games to show what all the fuss is about.
With great leaping skills and the instincts to be an entertainer, he pleased fans with some big-time dunks. He played solid defense, made some three-pointers, had drives to the basket and acted like a team player.
There was a 30-point performance in the San Fernando Invitational semifinals. That resulted in his being a marked player in the final against Chaminade, where the Eagles’ student section started chanting his name. At first, Paras seemed to play along. But like the rest of his Cathedral teammates, he soon let the student section’s enthusiasm affect him. He picked up a technical for clapping his hands in the face of an opposing player.
There was a moment he got mashed by an illegal screen in his face. He didn’t let it bother him one bit. The next time down court, he drilled a three-pointer. That was absolute toughness.
Cathedral is 6-0 and won the tournament on a three-sport shot just before the buzzer sounded Tuesday night.
Los Angeles’ huge Filipino population appears to be starting to show up to games and has its favorite player to root for.
Afterward, Paras gained more fans when he tweeted, “Great win! Thank you to everyone who watched! & a big s/o to Chaminade and the Chaminade SS! I hope my school has a SS section like that.”
If all goes as planned, there are going to be a lot more big games and big experiences for Paras as the season and his career unfolds.