Filipino hoops sensation Kobe Paras seeks fresh start in LA
LOS ANGELES (AP) Kobe Paras is back in Los Angeles looking for a fresh start.
The guard who is a celebrity in his native Philippines is hoping he finds it at Cal State Northridge after a false start at UCLA and a single season at Creighton.
Paras was welcomed to campus on Wednesday by Matadors coach Reggie Theus, who presented him with his No. 21 jersey. As a transfer, Paras will have to sit out the upcoming season because of NCAA rules.
''It's a new beginning and it's very humbling for me,'' Paras said.
He played at Cathedral High in Los Angeles before transferring to Middlebrooks Academy for his senior year. Paras was a highly touted recruit, having shown off his skills in several elite showcases and with the Compton Magic, his AAU traveling team.
Theus tried recruiting Paras back then, but he committed to UCLA under coach Steve Alford. Last June, the school said he had failed to meet academic requirements.
''It's been hard for me the last couple years,'' he said. ''I've been through a lot of adversity and my head's still high.''
Looking for another opportunity, Paras headed to Omaha, Nebraska. ''I just took a chance,'' he said.
It didn't work out at Creighton.
Paras averaged 1.3 points in 15 games for the Bluejays last season. He never started and played a total of 70 minutes.
''As a freshman, I expected to play a lot,'' he said. ''We had a strong lineup of older guys and he (coach Greg McDermott) believed in the older guys. Everything happens for a reason.''
At Northridge, Paras joins a team that went 11-19 and lost in the Big West Tournament quarterfinals last season. The Matadors' last NCAA Tournament appearance was in 2009, the same year they last won the regular-season league title.
Heading into his fifth season in Northridge, Theus believes he's found the player who can lift the Matadors to new heights.
''Kobe has endless potential and his ceiling is so high,'' the former NBA star said. ''He went through some adversity last year and some things that weren't so good for him. He kept his composure. I'm really proud to have Kobe here.''
Paras shares a first name with retired Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant. He also has a high-profile father who is actively involved in his son's burgeoning career.
Benjie Paras was a star basketball player in the Philippines, twice earning MVP honors in the Philippine Basketball Association while leading his team to two titles. The 6-foot-7 center retired in 2003 after 14 years and became an actor.
''All I can say is he's all yours,'' the elder Paras said, turning toward Theus. ''I won't interfere with anything.''
Both father and son are celebrities in their native country.
''It's hard for me every time I go back home because people ask for pictures and autographs,'' said the younger Paras.
Benjie Paras gets asked all the time whether his son is a better player than he was.
''I always tell them he's way better than me, but I always tell them I'm better looking,'' he said, laughing.
The younger Paras plans to play for the Philippines in the FIBA 3x3 world championships in France in a few weeks.
He can practice with the Matadors next season, although he won't play in games or travel with the team.
''He's very hungry to prove what he can be as a college basketball player,'' Theus said. ''We have an extra 800 seats up top that maybe he can put some people into.''
Paras sounded relieved to have finally found a basketball home.
''I've been recruited ever since high school and Coach Reggie is still showing he wanted me to be here,'' he said.
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