After experiencing a turbulent ride in his collegiate career in the U.S., Kobe Paras feels extremely grateful for the fresh opportunity that University of the Philippines has given him. In return, Paras debuted in style for the Fighting Maroons, helping his team survive an 83-82 overtime thriller against the Adamson Soaring Falcons on Sunday.
The 21-year-old high-flyer, who missed UP's first two games due to an ankle sprain, wasted no time in announcing his arrival to the UAAP. He topped for the Fighting Maroons with 20 points, six rebounds, and two blocks in 41 minutes of play.
"I'm just thankful for coach Bo (Perasol) and the whole UP community for giving me basically a third chance, not just in basketball but in life," said Paras.
Fresh out of high school, Paras initially committed to University of California in Los Angeles, but ended up withdrawing and signing with Creighton University. After one forgettable season with the Creighton Bluejays, he transferred to California State University Northridge, where he never got to play a single game. He announced that he will pursue a professional career, but eventually decided to take his talents to UP, the alma mater of his father, Benjie. After taking a year of residency and recovering from an ankle injury, he finally made his debut.
"It was really tough but I just thought about it as adversity," said Paras. "My whole life, I've been facing adversities so I'm just really glad that I'm back on the court and I'm just here to represent UP."
Paras played down the hype that accompanied his long-awaited return to the local basketball scene, saying that he just wants to continue playing the sport that he loves.
"I've been doing this ever since. It's just the game that I love," said Paras. "When I was in the States, I didn't really get to play in college and it really hurts. A lot of people think it's easy being alone in the States. I had to go through a lot of mental issues. I think that's one thing that people really need to understand. As athletes, we're human beings as well. I had to face adversity every single day alone but I'm just grateful for the opportunity that UP's given to me."
For him, the tough win over Adamson helped UP build chemistry, considering the new pieces that the team integrated into the lineup, including him and Ricci Rivero.
"You guys know that this is a new team. A lot of people think it's easy to just have a group of players come in and produce but it's hard," said Paras. "I'm just glad we have games like this because it brings us together."
As the Fighting Maroons continue their quest for a finals repeat, Paras assured that he's determined to make the most out of his third chance to revive his collegiate career.
"I'm just really blessed I'm given a third chance in college basketball and that's rare," said Paras. "For a lot of these student-athletes, they know how it feels. Some of them know how it feels to try and try and try and not get the chance. I'm just blessed. Even though this is just my plan B, this plan B is everyone's dream. So I'm still grateful for everything."