MANILA, Philippines – His first season in the UAAP went by too fast and finished much earlier than he would have wanted, but Kobe Paras simply felt thankful for all his experiences with University of the Philippines (UP) in Season 82.
One of the most highly touted recruits to enter the UAAP in recent years, Paras lived up to his expectations in his first full season of collegiate basketball. He showed off his uncommon athleticism en route to averages of 17.4 points and 5.7 rebounds per game, earning Mythical Team honors in the process.
Against University of Santo Tomas (UST) in the stepladder semifinals, however, Paras struggled. He scored just 9 points in an 89-69 loss in their first game, and managed just 8 markers on 3-of-10 shooting in the 68-65 defeat that ended UP's season.
"It was a good game. It was like the first game we had with UST where we really did fight," Paras said after the contest, which saw Renzo Subido drill the go-ahead three-pointer with 23 seconds left.
Indeed, UP lost their previous three games to UST by an average margin of 14 points. The Tigers looked headed for another comfortable win after taking an 18-6 lead at the end of the first quarter, but the Fighting Maroons rallied in the second frame and turned the match into a nip-and-tuck affair.
UP still had a chance to tie the game in the closing seconds, but a potential game-tying three-pointer by James Spencer hit the side of the rim before the Tigers controlled the rebound.
"That was what we wanted, honestly, but we just didn't make it," Paras said of their final possession. "Like what (UST) coach Aldin (Ayo) said when they won, it's about execution."
Despite the abrupt end to their campaign, Paras was in high spirits. He appreciated every moment he spent on the court, he said, especially after spending much of the past three years in basketball limbo.
"I've learned to love myself and to be more appreciative of what I have instead of wanting more things," said Paras, when asked what he learned in Season 82.
"I think that's a lesson for a lot of people in this world, that you have to be grateful for what you have, and you can't be fishing for stuff you don't have, because you'll never be complete," he added.
For Paras, he remains in a good situation even though UP fell short of expectations in Season 82.
The Fighting Maroons were touted as a championship contender ahead of the season, thanks to their talent-laded roster that included not just Paras, but also Ricci Rivero, Bright Akhuetie, and Juan Gomez de Liano.
They were just one game away from a return trip to the finals, but could not get it done against an impressive UST squad.
"This is my fourth college," noted Paras, who famously committed to University of California Los Angeles before transferring to Creighton University, and then to California State Northridge before landing in UP. "What I learned is to be grateful of what I have."
"My plan A didn't work. This is my plan B, my plan B is still dreams for a lot of people, so I'm just really grateful that I'm here, I'm grateful that I showed what I got," he added.
"It's a learning process," he also said.
With UP's season done, Paras intends to take some time to rest and recover. He had played nearly 33 minutes per game this year, and battled through a shoulder ailment in the Maroons' last few games. After the loss to UST, he admitted that he was "beat up."
"I just have to recover," he said.
"I don't know what's gonna happen next season. So right now, I just wanna take a break and enjoy life," he added.
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