“It was way different back then when I started playing for the country so I’m just happy to see it growing and how a lot of people are actually interested in it,” says Paras

By Nicole Ganglani | Photo from FIBA.basketball

If there’s an athlete that’s no stranger to 3×3 basketball, it’s UP Fighting Maroons’ rookie Kobe Paras. In fact, Paras has been the face of Philippine 3×3 basketball for the longest time, even winning a gold for the country in the Under-18 FIBA Asia 3×3 Championships in Thailand back in 2013.

Besides his explosive dunk on NBA superstar LeBron James, Paras’ biggest highlight took place in the 2015 FIBA 3×3 Under-18 dunk contest, where he nab first place and shocked the world with his explosive highlight reel slam dunks. At that time, the 17-year-old was already making for himself  as an elite dunker and was already on the radar as the future of Philippine basketball.  

Taiwan Excellence 3×3 Hoop Challenge

The 3×3 tournament has seen rise in the country over the past few years. Just last May, the national women’s basketball 3-on-3 team proved their worth in the International Games after making it as far as the qualifying round in the FIBA 3X3 Asia Cup. There have also been local 3×3 competitions specifically in the UAAP and the recently held Taiwan Excellence Hoop Challenge.

This year’s Taiwan Excellence 3×3 Hoop Challenge saw over 768 young ballers compete for court supremacy. After rigorous qualifying rounds, the top eight faced off against each other at the finals round held at the SM Megamall Event Center last June 29-30. The Annie’s Way AMA University 1 composed of Zheanriz Romero, Joshua Villamor, Josh Reymond Colina, and Earl Bryan Cenize pulled off a sweep to win the 19-under crown, while Annie’s Way-AMA 2, which was made up of Joshua Sabile, Christian Germino, and Alec Catorce nab the Open crown of the tournament. 

Paras, who was in attendance to witness the event together with his brother Andre, mentioned that he was amazed with how far the 3×3 tournament has come in the country.

“It’s amazing because ever since the start of the 3×3 games, I was already there. The rules were so different back then and at least now a lot of these players and those that watch basketball understand it more. It was way different back then when I started playing for the country so I’m just happy to see it growing and how a lot of people are actually interested in it,” said the 21 -year-old Paras. 

According to Paras, the 3×3 tournament is different in terms of the pace of the game. It’s so much faster as compared to a normal 5-on-5 basketball game because of the 12 second shot clock and the fact that no team can call a timeout during the game. Aside from the pace, the 3×3 games involves no coaches and concludes once a team scores 21 points.

“It’s basically like street ball but with organized rules. It’s better to watch because the pace is faster and it’s a game race to 21,” Paras said in an interview with CNN Sports Desk last Aug 2018.

When asked if he would like to continue to represent the Philippines in the upcoming 3×3 world tournaments, Paras didn’t hesitate to say that he would be glad to do so especially since it has been something he’s been a part of since he was a teenager.

“Hopefully I can be part of the pool. I’ve been playing 3×3 my whole life and I hope that get the same respect as what I give to the sport.”  

Finding a Place in UP

Paras’ collegiate basketball journey has seen its ups and downs over the past few years. After a couple of trying years in the United States, he made the decision to come back to the Philippines and pursue his basketball career and studies here instead. He committed to take his talents to the University of the Philippines last 2017, but this also meant that he had to sit out a year for residency purposes as prescribed by the UAAP.

This coming UAAP season, Paras will finally see action on the court once again. While the expectations everyone has on the rookie remain to be high, the certified dunk machine confidently stated that he feels no pressure at all. 

“No, there’s no pressure. A lot of people feel pressure every day like those who commute to work everyday or people who don’t work and are trying to find a job—now that’s pressure. I’m really blessed to be able to play a sport that I really love so I’m really blessed to be in this position. There’s no pressure at all because I’m just having fun,” said Paras. 

It’ll take a few more months for the country to see Paras play in the UAAP but everyone already knows he’s going to be a huge asset for Coach Bo Perasol’s squad. How he’s going to fit in the team with the Gomez De Liaño brothers, Ricci Rivero, and Bright Akhuetie still remains uncertain. But as early as now, Paras is already looking forward to once again reunite with his brothers on the court.

“I’m excited to play with my brothers and with my other former teammates. It’s going to be fun.”

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