The noise inside the arenas where Gilas Pilipinas played is always off the charts. From Taiwan to Lebanon to Malaysia, Filipino fans have always made the players feel they were at home at least when they were on the court.
This noise goes into overdrive whenever the arena barkers shout the name of Kobe Paras and it’s not surprising why. He’s the product of the two favorite Filipino past times in basketball and show business, he’s young, and with great potential.
However, in the Jones Cup and even in their first outing in the Southeast Asian Games against Thailand, the opportunities for the fans to cheer for the young player were few and far between as he did not get a lot of playing time.
Paras would be the first to tell you that frustration built up. He’s a player. He wanted to be on the floor.
Against Myanmar, he finally got the opportunity that he wanted.
Paras made the blowout game his personal showcase. He finished with 20 points, eight rebounds, four assists, seven steals, and four blocks and added even more dunks to his already growing highlight reel.
Against Malaysia in their next game, Paras was once again impressive as he injected much needed energy into their attack after the home team defied the odds and led after the opening quarter. Paras had 16 points and eight boards to help Gilas sweep the group stage and qualify for the semifinals.
“It feels great. I missed it,” said Paras about getting heavy minutes in the two games. “It’s been a while since I’ve played for a long time, so I appreciate coach Jong (Uichico) and coach Jimmy (Alapag) for giving me the opportunity to show what I have and represent my country.”
Paras admitted that it was not easy being in uniform but not getting enough opportunities to help his teammates. When he was inserted into the game, Paras was often over-eager to show his wares as he knows his stint might not be long. As a result, he’d sometimes force the issue, veering away from what the coaches wanted to happen. In time, he learned to slow down and let the game come to him.
“Since the Jones Cup, I realized that even if you’re a star player on whatever team you are, you gotta accept your role. So that’s what I’m doing now. I just do my game and play every game like it’s my last.”
After victories against Singapore in the semifinals and Indonesia in the gold medal match Paras and the rest of Gilas Pilipinas re-asserted the country’s mastery in the men’s basketball competitions in the Southeast Asia region. Paras also replicated a feat that his father did back in 1987 when he also won gold in the SEA Games.
With the support of the Filipino fans firmly behind him, he will be a huge part of the future of the Gilas program and the experience the gains from the Jones Cup and the SEA Games, may it be on the bench or on the floor, will help build him as a player. His thirst more opportunities on the floor is only brought about by his thirst more success as he believes he has the tools to help whenever he is on the floor.
The men’s basketball event and most other events in the SEA Games require proper water replenishment for top-notch performance and health.
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