Kobe Paras has returned to the Philippines.
In a homecoming lunch supported by Chooks-to-Go on Monday, Paras was welcomed by his father Benjie, Bounty Agro Ventures President Ronald Mascariñas, and former high school teammate Ricci Rivero.
Paras, who has represented the country during the 2017 FIBA 3x3 World Cup, the 2017 Jones Cup, and the 2017 Southeast Asian Games, is back in town to focus on his national team duties.
Paras discussed his decision to forego his remaining college years at the California State University Northridge and turn professional.
"When coach Reggie [Theus] got fired, that's when I was like, I need to make a decision," Paras said. "Especially this year, there's a lot of news in the FBI about the NCAA, I didn't want to get caught up in that."
The Gilas standout went on to clarify what he meant when he initially announced he was trying the professional ranks.
"When I say go pro, it doesn't mean NBA. There's a lot of people that kept saying NBA. It is a professional league but there's a lot of pro teams out there," he said. "When I announced to go pro, it was because of my coach, Coach Reggie, he got fired. It was shocking to me that he got fired because I was ready to play. Since that happened I had to make a decision to myself. I'm glad I'm here. When I said I was going to go pro, Chooks was there for me."
Paras will join the Gilas 23 for 2023 pool that will compete in the upcoming 2018 FilOil Flying V Preseason Premier Cup, facing the top collegiate teams in the country.
"For us in Chooks, we're behind Kobe. Whatever Kobe's plans are, whether in the country or anywhere else, we'll be behind him," said Mascariñas.
As for Rivero, a teammate of Paras during their high school days with the La Salle Green Hills, he is simply happy to be reunited and compete with his friend on a bigger stage.
"When we were teammates, I was so happy because I saw that he jumped really high. At least this time, our chance to play together, not just for any school or anything else but for Chook-to-Go. I'm happy that Chooks gave us the opportunity to play together," said Rivero.
"I'm just gonna bring energy. That's what I bring to the team -- energy. I see my teammates as brothers," Paras said. "I can't wait to practice with them, build a bond, and hopefully win the Flying V."
Paras and the rest of the Gilas cadets will take on the Ateneo Blue Eagles on Saturday, April 21 in their first assignment in the FilOil tournament.