Saturday, July 2, 2016

Kobe Paras' dad, coach speak up on UCLA withdrawal

LOS ANGELES - Two years of hoop dreams, excitement and anticipation took a twist this week for the Paras family when PBA legend Benjie Paras found out that his son Kobe was no longer going to attend the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

The younger Paras, who was Division 1 qualified to play, had already checked in and had begun summer school, but suddenly the admissions department said he did not meet some of the academic requirements causing the former slam dunk champion to withdraw.

"It was really a surprise for us and of course Kobe was really devastated. I was talking to him, and honestly, he was crying," said Benjie.

Despite reports citing Cathedral High School's principal saying that the issue involved his Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) score, Paras' Coach William Middlebrooks said no exact details were given.

"That was a shock to the entire athletic department. Our understanding was as long as he's a full qualifier academically, he'd be in school and for whatever reason, the head of admissions made a different decision. It was taken out of context. I think it came across strange to people. Various people interpret it the way they interpreted it but we don't know what the reason is. Even the principal has not talked to anybody at UCLA admissions so therefore whatever the reason is they chose to make this decision we don't have a fact to as why they made the decision," said Middlebrooks.

Middlebrooks admitted that these issues do happen at all colleges and not just to student athletes. With Kobe now withdrawn from UCLA, it's back to the recruitment process for the Division 1 eligible 18-year-old Paras.

With a couple of months before the school year, at least 80 Division 1 schools have reached out to the 6-foot-5 inch wing.

As Paras will weigh his options, he is expected to be in school and on the court in time for the 2016 college basketball season.

"He's a hot commodity right now. We're just back to the drawing board about finding the right fit, the right opportunity; that they understand who Kobe is, what his game is all about, what he means to the Philippines," his coach said.

Benjie added, "We want for Kobe to pick a good school that he can play, and at the same time, getting good academics. I'm just here to support Kobe, support coach and Cathedral and the organization. Whatever decisions they make I'm going to be fine with it."

Benjie, who flew to Los Angeles immediately after the withdrawal news came, has stayed positive and while his son has built a large following, he shared a message to the fans.

"Don't worry. He's going to be ok. He's in good hands, Cathedral, Middlebrooks, they're one big family. They will help each other when someone becomes successful they will be happy for him and when someone's down they will help him get up. He's in good hands right now and for sure you will see him play again," he said.

Middlebrooks and Benjie said Kobe will not make any public comments or appearances as he continues to visit schools and workout on the court.

Read more on Balitang America.