Paras, other UAAP standouts honored to be named to SEAG pool

Kobe Paras of the UP Fighting Maroons would love to represent the country once again if given the opportunity.

Paras, as well as a handful of amateur standouts, have reportedly been included in the initial pool set to represent the Philippines in the upcoming Southeast Asian Games. Alongside Paras are fellow University of the Philippines teammates Juan Gomez De LiaƱo and Ricci Rivero, National University's Dave Ildefonso, De La Salle University's Justine Baltazar, Ateneo de Manila University's Isaac Go and Thirdy Ravena, and 7-foot-2 phenom Kai Sotto.

"I'm just really happy. I was the youngest last time during the last SEA Games," said Paras who last competed in the 2017 SEA Games in Malaysia. "So hopefully, the SBP and the coaches give me another chance. Representing the country is the one thing I love to do."

Though there is no final list or lineup yet from Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP), Paras is humbled and grateful for the possibility to play for the national team. The Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee has given a September 30 deadline for the final list of participating athletes and the second-generation star is hoping that he can get the call-up.

"I'm just glad that I'm part of the pool and, hopefully, by the 30th, they could name the team," the 22-year-old said.

Dave Ildefonso, who had been a staple in the Batang Gilas program, is likewise excited on the possibility of once again wearing the national colors.

"I'm really happy because this is one step closer to my goal of joining the 2023 World Cup. Even though it's just a pool and it's not yet official, I'm really happy as a 19-year-old kid I get to learn and play with a group of individually talented and special players," said the son of two-time PBA MVP Danny Ildefonso.

"I'll prepare for that challenge by giving the coaches what they want from me or what they want the players to do for the team. Of course no matter the result I'm just happy that my name was considered even if it's just the pool."

For La Salle's Justine Baltazar, a national team inclusion would be a dream come true.

"Yeah, this is really my dream," Baltazar said in Filipino. "Of course, of all the players that want to play here, I was mentioned. That alone is a huge honor."

The 6-foot-7 big man is having a stellar season so far for the Green Archers averaging 16.2 points, 12.4 rebounds, 2.0 blocks, 1.2 assists through five games.

"I was surprised, but if given the chance, this will be a huge help," he said. "My goal is to get to play there, I want to experience playing international. If I'll get in the lineup, I'll really give my all for the country."

Amateur players have usually taken centerstage in the SEA Games. According to reports, however, there is a possibility that PBA players will get a chance to suit up as well. For Paras, he is hoping that the young and up and coming stars will get a chance to shine alongside seasoned professionals.

"For me, I think that all the collegiate players need to be part of the team. Because I saw an interview that they want to mix and match the amateurs but it's way better the amateurs be in the front right now," Paras said. "You know as the saying goes, 'the kids are the future.' Hopefully, they could help us amateurs be in the spotlight and represent the country. It's a once in a lifetime thing to do that. Hopefully, that's what happens, but whatever they choose, it's all for the country."