Thirty three years ago, Benjie Paras, a 6-foot-5 young center, became the savior of the University of the Philippines men’s basketball program and rewarded the Fighting Maroons a championship.
That championship came elusive over the next few years for UP, which didn’t win another title since then.
It was only two years ago when the Fighting Maroons’ basketball program got a reboot as UP made a good run to bid for the Final Four in 2017 then went straight to the championship round last year, capped by its dramatic two straight victories over Adamson in the Final Four before losing to Ateneo.
This season, the Fighting Maroons made another good run and found themselves in a better position to make a return trip to the championship round.
This year’s UP squad had drawn much attention and one of the players who caught the fancy of basketball fans is Kobe Paras, the second generation cager, who is out to follow the footsteps of his dad.
The elder Paras was a hero in UP.
After leading the team to the 1986 championship, Benjie went on to become one of Philippine basketball’s all-time greats, winning both the Rookie of the Year and MVP in the PBA in 1989 and captured another MVP 10 years after on top of claiming four championships in the country’s professional basketball league.
It’s not surprising that there’s so much pressure put on the shoulders of the young Paras.
Like his old man, Benjie, Kobe made an impact this season and the latter is now starting to make use of his full potential by helping the Fighting Maroons reached the No. 2 spot at the end of the elimination round.
UP coach Bo Perasol is convinced Kobe has started to make his mark with the Fighting Maroons.
“I think he has already made his mark with UP,” Perasol told FOX Sports Philippines. “Before, we all know Kobe Paras as a player with a lot of potential, but he wasn’t able to show it until he was given a chance to play.”
In the past, the younger Paras was known to providing highlight reels, particularly during the slam dunk competitions where he won the FIBA Under-18 World Championship dunk contest.
“Dati kasi, hindi naman siya masyadong nakakalaro, although alam natin na may potential siya. Even sa national team as member of Gilas, hindi rin siya masyadong nagagamit,” added Perasol.
In 2015, the younger Paras committed to play for the UCLA Bruins but withdrew from joining the program. Instead, he brought his wares to the Creighton Bluejays, but after his freshman season, he decided to bring his act to the CalState Northridge.
He sat out the first season as per NCAA rules, but even before he played his first game with the Matadors, then coached by former NBA star Reggie Theus of the Chicago Bulls, Paras decided to leave the team.
Last year, Paras underwent residency along with another promising player, Ricci Rivero.
The much-awaited debut of Paras was met with both curiosity and excitement and the young cager immediately became an asset to the Fighting Maroons this season.
After 14 games, Paras and the rest of the Fighting Maroons ended up with the second best record and they await the winner of the University of Santo Tomas Tigers-Far Eastern University Tamaraws grudge match on Wednesday.
Paras and the Fighting Maroons can take a few days of rest and prepare for the big battle and the UP Community will be waiting, hoping their beloved cagers would get the job done.