Filipino Kobe Paras will play for UCLA

There's a new Kobe in town at Cathedral High - LA Times

Don’t be surprised if Filipino flags are being waved en masse this winter in the gym at

Los Angeles Cathedral High. There are more than 375,000 Filipinos living in Los

Angeles County, and a 17-year-old basketball prodigy with more than 50,000 Twitter

and 67,000 Instagram followers is set to make his high school debut in the United States.

Kobe Paras is no ordinary foreign exchange student. As a 15-year-old in 2013, Paras participated

in a Nike exhibition in Manila, and with LeBron James on the court, Paras dunked. That moment

was captured on video, and in the era of YouTube, Facebook and Twitter, Paras’ life changed.

“They’re calling me the kid who dunked on LeBron,” Paras recalled.

There's a new Kobe in town at Cathedral High - LA Times

Last week, UCLA Coach Steve Alford showed up at Cathedral to watch Paras practice and ended

up making a scholarship offer. On Saturday, Paras committed to the Bruins. In 24 hours, he

picked up 1,000 more Twitter followers.

“Pinoys in L.A. will go nuts to see Kobe as a Bruin,” said TJ Manotoc, a sports broadcaster for

ABS-CBN in the Philippines.

Junior from Philippines is committed to UCLAIn the Philippines, Paras and his family were celebrities long before his LeBron moment. His

father, Benjie, in 1989 became the only player in the history of the country’s professional

basketball league to be the rookie of the year and the MVP in the same season. He became an

actor and businessman. Paras’ brother, Andre, also plays basketball and went into acting.

Then it was decided Paras, who was named after the Lakers’ Kobe Bryant, should come to Los

Angeles to prepare for college and see if he was good enough to earn a college basketball

scholarship. He’s living with a host family.

“I always remind him to continue working hard and to focus on his studies,” his father told

Philstar.com on Friday.

With his youthful looks and willingness to be playful and entertain fans through postings on

Instagram and Twitter, Paras has a gained a large following among teenage girls in the

Philippines.

Whenever Paras does just about anything noteworthy, Filipino media report it.

“I liken him in his country to what LeBron was here” as a high school star, Cathedral Coach

William Middlebrooks said.

Paras is 6 feet 6. He was a center in his country, but he was playing guard last summer for a travel

team in Southern California and picked up scholarship offers from Arizona State, California,

Fresno State, UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine even though he’s going into his junior year. Then

UCLA entered the picture.

“While all of this is new to me, I realize that I can only go to one college, so I felt it was not

necessary to continue the recruitment process with so many very good schools and coaches

already at the table,” Paras said in a statement released by Cathedral.

“Most know him for his dunking, but he can shoot the three, dribbles and passes,” Middlebrooks

said. “He’s highly skilled and is adapting to the style of play in America.”

Clearly, Paras’ leaping ability will make him a crowd favorite this season. He hasn’t measured his

vertical leap, but it’s so explosive that you can count on Cathedral statisticians to start keeping

track of dunks.

There’s little doubt the attention he received for his LeBron moment had a huge influence.

“He was my idol since I was a kid, and getting to do that with him is something that changed

something in me big time,” Paras said.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times

Of course, basketball is more than just dunking, and the focus on Paras’ dunks takes away from

his other strengths. He really is a terrific shooter and his work ethic is outstanding.

“I want to show everybody it’s not all about dunking or highlights,” he said. “It’s about what you

do on the court.”

There's a new Kobe in town at Cathedral High - LA Times

But asked if he likes to dunk, Paras smiles and says, “Yes, I do.”

Paras has earned a reputation at Cathedral for being a polite, well-mannered, humble student.

Seeing him walk around campus with other students provides no clue that in the Philippines he is

a media sensation.

“How good that is I don’t know because he’s still a kid, but that’s his life at this point,”

Middlebrooks said.

According to Manotoc, the combination of Filipinos’ love for basketball and Paras’ family

connections and success has led to much attention. A video of Paras winning a FIBA dunk contest

has more than 1.5 million views on YouTube.

“Basketball is a religion here,” Manotoc said. “The only time kids on the street don’t play ball is

when Manny Pacquiao has a fight.”

Rarely do homegrown Filipinos receive scholarships to NCAA schools, which means Paras is going

to be followed even more closely.

For now, Paras will try to show that he has skills beyond dunking. But when he soars through the

air and jams the ball through the net, the excitement he generates is likely to prompt more than

just Filipino fans to rise to their feet.

Los Angeles now has more than one basketball player named Kobe with star power.

 

via There’s a new Kobe in town at Cathedral High – LA Times.

Phan Thanh Hau cited top 40 Best Young Football Talent

The British Guardian newspaper has listed Phan Thanh Hau, a midfielder on the Vietnam U19 football squad, among the “40 of the Best Young Talents in World Football”.


Thanh Hau cited top 40 Best Young Football Talent

  • U19 Vietnam holds China to draw at AFC Champ
  • Rough start for U19 Team at Asian football championships
  • VTV to broadcast U19 Vietnam matches in Asia

“Phan Thanh Hau is the heartbeat of their (U19 football squad) midfield, always available and ready to spray passes short and long and to use a deft first touch to create space for a lovely left-foot to prise open opposition defences,” the Guardian reported.

“He currently plays for an academy in his homeland built by Arsenal JMG Academy and a Vietnamese company. His next move is either to the V-League or Europe.”

In the final round of U19 AFC 2014, Thanh Hau-number 19 played well and created many challenges for Japanese players. Vietnamese coach Guillaume Graechen said that Hau is one of most skilful and potential player of Vietnam U19 football squad.

“Vietnam is becoming a serious player in Asian youth football, with a recent 5-1 win over Australia further evidence of their progress. According to the Korean coach, preparing to defend their Under-19 title, Vietnam is one of the favourites.” the Guardian reported.

via Thanh Hau cited top 40 Best Young Football Talent | Vietnam Features.

Nam Phan signs with Bellator, meets Mike Richman in Bellator 131 main-card opener | MMAjunkie

UFC veteran Nam Phan (20-13 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) has signed with Bellator MMA and will make his promotional debut against Mike Richman (17-5 MMA, 6-4 BMMA) in next month’s Bellator 131 main-card opener.

Bellator officials tonight announced the bantamweight bout. Terms of Phan’s deal weren’t disclosed.

Bellator 131 takes place Nov. 15 at Valley View Casino Center in San Diego. The main card, including an announced headliner between veteran light heavyweights and UFC Hall of Famers Stephan Bonnar (15-8 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) and Tito Ortiz (17-11-1 MMA, 1-0 BMMA), as well as a lightweight title fight between interim champ Will Brooks (14-1 MMA, 6-1 BMMA) and former titleholder Michael Chandler (12-2 MMA, 9-2 BMMA), airs on Spike TV following prelims on Spike.com.

Phan went 2-6 with the UFC but picked up a pair of “Fight of the Night” bonuses and was never finished despite facing some notable names, including Takeya Mizugaki, Dennis Siver and Jimy Hettes. Following his promotional release earlier this year, the 31-year-old Californian hit the regional scene in Japan and picked up a pair of stoppage victories.

via Nam Phan signs with Bellator, meets Mike Richman in Bellator 131 main-card opener | MMAjunkie.

Zhou Qi 2015 NBA Draft: Scouting Video & Report

Zhou Qi 2015 NBA Draft: Scouting Video & Report

Summary

Zhou Qi pronounced, Chjoe Chi, is an 18 year old Forward/Center prospect from the Henan, China. Zhou weighs in at 220 lbs and measures 7’2″ tall with a rumored 7’4-5″ wingspan. At this point, his biggest strengths are his length and mobility. On defense he is an excellent shot blocker helping off his man; can also block shots and contest shots on the ball. Zhou runs the floor very well and can catch on the move in transition for a quick finish or early action post up. Qi has a good feel for the game. He can facilitate from the high post finding cutters and also make swing passes or interior passes from the low post. In addition he shows good ESP with guards in pick and roll situations; moves well, can catch on the move and has a soft touch around the rim.

As noted, Zhou has a thin frame for his position at only 220 lbs. He may be more of power forward offensively, but on the defensive end he may wind up guarding centers when smaller/quicker stretch 4 types are in the lineup. Zhou is easily moved off his spot by smaller guards when setting UCLA screens and sometimes struggles to finish into contact in the paint. Along the same lines, he needs to work on his post game. Qi is graceful and can spin baseline or fake spin-pivot-drop step. However, he often has difficulty sealing his man and struggles when meeting a shot blocker at the rim. Also, needs to work on his footwork; prone to traveling violations.

Zhou is an intriguing prospect because he flashes upside potential in various areas of the game. He can put the ball on the floor from 15-18 feet for step back jumpers. From the mid post area he can spin baseline and finish on the other side of the basket. Not yet a great shooter, but has range out to 20 feet. In addition, Qi is a good offensive rebounder, shows a good understanding of geometry in that he moves his body to where he thinks the ball will be. Not to be overlooked, his pick and roll coverage is already better than some current  NBA players. Zhou is familiar with hard hedging strategies as well as soft, shadow schemes.

Unfortunately, its not known weather he will enter his name in the 2015 NBA Draft or 2016 Draft, for that matter. If he participates in the 2015 Nike Hoops Summit and has a good showing, then he will increase his chances of selection in the 2015 draft should he decide to enter.  It is still uncertain what position he can defend at an NBA level; though Center may be ideal given his height, length, and P&R defensive prowess.

Strengths

=> Length - has great length. Blocks shots on the ball and off of weak side or help rotations. Uses length to contest jump shots on ball.

=> Mobility - agile and light on his feet. In transition, can catch passes on the move and finish, draws fouls. Runs back on defense in transition.

=> Feel for the Game - natural facilitator; high post. Makes swing passes from low post. Tracks loose balls. ESP with guards; slips screens & catches on move.

Weaknesses

=> Focus - sometimes struggles with ball-you-man and misses rim protection assignments. Hi IQ player, but makes inexperience related mistakes.

=> Strength - gets knocked off balance by smaller players in the course of play; defense, screens, put backs. Needs to add weight & core strength.

=> Post Game - has potential but still raw. Likes to spin baseline, but no counter. Shuffles feet and gets called for travels. Lacks physical presence.

Upside

=> Scoring Threat - has a developing midrange game. Puts the ball on the floor for step back jumpers. Shoots out to 20 feet, Spot-ups. Post game potential.

=> Off. Rebounding - reads where the ball is going then moves his body to the spot, uses length. Brings the ball down to gather then lifts for a put-back.

=> Pick & Roll Defense - agile and quick enough to execute hedging strategies like show & recover. Also skilled at playing soft while protecting the rim.

Prognosis

=> Draft; Late 1st, Early 2nd

=> Feel for Game, Highly Skilled

=> Needs to Add Strength

=> D Upside; Mobility & Length

=> When Will He Come Over?

 

Norichika Aoki relishes ALCS triumph

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The moment the Kansas City Royals clinched the American League title, Norichika Aoki raced onto the field to celebrate with his teammates.

After the fun with them, his wife and two children joined him to soak up the moment.

“It’s really great to be able to give my family this kind of experience,” Aoki said.

The third-year big-leager, in his first season with the Royals, endured a lot over the first half of the year. He went on the disabled list for the first time in his career, and the former Nippon Pro Baseball stolen base champion in removed for a pinch-runner, and is also replaced in the outfield for defensive purposes.

Aoki had a lot to adjust to this season in terms of his use.Speech

via Aoki relishes ALCS triumph – The Japan News.

Lee Nguyen scored twice to lead the New England Revolution past the Houston Dynamo 2-1

HOUSTON (AP) — Lee Nguyen scored twice in the second half to lead the New England Revolution to a 2-1 victory over the Houston Dynamo on Thursday night.

New England (16-13-4) is three points behind Eastern Conference leader D.C. United and three points ahead of third-place Sporting Kansas City.

In the 65th minute, Nguyen received a back-pass from Kevin Alston, took one touch to elude a defender and curled in a shot. He scored his 17th goal of the season in the 87th minute. A rebound fell to Darrius Barnes and he found an open Nguyen at the top of the 6-yard box.

via Lee Nguyen scored twice to lead the New England Revolution past the Houston Dynamo 2-1 – Planet Futbol – SI.com.

Kawakami: Put Travis Ishikawa among San Francisco Giants’ legendary heroes – hits walkoff homerun in bottom of 9th to send Giants to World Series

SAN FRANCISCO — Travis Ishikawa and Michael Morse were not Giants legends before Thursday, but they are now.

That’s what this team is: A bunch of guys just patiently waiting their turns to be legendary, on a nightly basis.

Then doing the legend thing, again and again and again … all the way to their third World Series in five years.

At the end of this National League Championship Series against St. Louis, the Giants’ final hero was Ishikawa, who started his career with the Giants, was released, and eventually came back this season as an unassuming role player and then suddenly was thrown into left field for the playoffs.

Now? He’s Bobby Thomson 2.0.

On Thursday, it was Ishikawa — a 31-year-old journeyman first baseman — who misplayed a fly ball in left field that led to the Cardinals’ first run off Giants starter Madison Bumgarner.

So of course it was Ishikawa who came up in a tie game in the bottom of the ninth with two runners on, then hit the home run that won this game, 6-3.

And he’s the one who had to fight through his teammates’ giddy tackles as he rounded the bases.

Just legendary.

“As soon as I hit it, I knew instantly the game was over because I knew it would be at least be off the wall,” Ishikawa said.

“As I was going across the (first-base) bag, I was thinking, ‘Man, if this goes out it’s going to be incredible.’

“And I just saw it sneak over. And after that I don’t remember. I don’t remember anything else after that.”

Time stopped. The moment froze. The Cardinals players drooped. That’s what happens when history happens in a lightning flash.

Then it all sped up again, and everything was noise at AT&T Park after hours of tension, worry, surprise, and now release.

Game over, series over, the pennant in their pocket and now the Giants take on the Royals in the World Series starting Tuesday in Kansas City.

Giants’ Travis Ishikawa(45) celebrates his walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win Game 5 of the National League baseball
Giants’ Travis Ishikawa(45) celebrates his walk-off home run in the bottom of the ninth inning to win Game 5 of the National League baseball championship series against the St. Louis Cardinals at AT&T Park in San Francisco, Calif., on Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group)

“The story of tonight’s Ishikawa, man — that was unbelievable,” reliever Jeremy Affeldt said. “Him running around the bases — he had to have been floating. He felt so bad on that misplayed fly ball there. So for him to get redemption like that, can’t be any greater feeling for him.”

Ishikawa became just the fourth player in baseball history to send a team to the World Series on a walk-off homer in an LCS game and the first Giant to hit a pennant-winning homer since a guy named Bobby Thomson in 1951.

“That’s baseball history right there,” outfielder Hunter Pence said.

It sure is. This whole team is living history, though.

Before Ishikawa’s home run came Morse’s dramatic pinch-hit solo blast an inning earlier to tie the game 3-3, when all looked rather dark and gloomy for the Giants’ hopes of finishing off this series on Thursday and preventing a trip back to St. Louis for Game 6.

And yes, Morse had his own back story: The Giants’ everyday left fielder was injured for the final weeks of the season, hadn’t been particularly good for many weeks before that, and was held out of the Giants’ wild-card game and series against Washington.

If Morse hadn’t gotten hurt, Ishikawa would not be playing left field (or at all) in this postseason.

But when Morse got his opportunity against tough reliever Pat Neshek on Thursday, the ball left the yard to tie the game.

“I had a feeling he was going to do something good,” Bumgarner said of Morse, who was pinch-hitting for the pitcher after Bumgarner’s eight-inning stint.

“Nobody — especially no right-handed hitter — likes facing Neshek. So you know it’s going to be a tough at-bat. But we had a good feeling with him going up there.”

Add in Joe Panik’s two-run shot in the third inning and that gave the Giants three homers in this game — after going the previous six postseason games without a long ball.

“For us to have no home runs and then all of a sudden we get one to go ahead, another to tie, another to win it — I mean, that’s a storybook deal right there,” Affeldt said.

Game 5 hero Travis Ishikawa poses with the man who caught his home run ball and returned it to him, Frank Burke of Oakville. Burke got a bat from Ishikawa

Game 5 hero Travis Ishikawa poses with the man who caught his home run ball and returned it to him, Frank Burke of Oakville. Burke got a bat from Ishikawa in exchange for the soon-to-be-iconic ball. (Dan Brown / Mercury News)

“That is an amazing feat by this team. It’s a credit to everybody playing hard, keeping this game close, and then anything can happen.”

Affeldt had an enormous series coming out of the bullpen repeatedly in crucial situations, and he was summoned one last time in this one to get dangerous pinch-hitter Oscar Taveras with the bases loaded in the ninth.

Taveras hit a tapper back to Affeldt, who raced the ball to the bag himself to end the inning.

That led to the bottom of the ninth, which opened with a Pablo Sandoval single, then a Brandon Belt walk, then Ishikawa, with one out.

It wasn’t time to brood about his misplay hours earlier. It was time to become a legend.

“Obviously, I spent the rest of that defensive inning thinking that I might’ve just cost us the game,” Ishikawa said of his blunder. “But Bum did a fantastic job only allowing that one run to score. Joe hit a big homer in the following half-inning to get us back in.

“Every single guy on this team, every single coach came up to me, slapped me on the back, said don’t worry, you’re going to get ‘em, you’re going to get ‘em, stick with it.”

Then Ishikawa got a high fastball from Michael Wacha and slammed it just over the right-field wall, and Giants pitcher Jake Peavy raced from the dugout and practically upended Ishikawa between second and third base.

Ishikawa motored through it and officially touched home plate, somehow.

“We forgot we had to let him touch home plate for a minute,” Bumgarner said.

Ishikawa found his way. He secured his legend. The Giants won the pennant — you might want to shout that out repeatedly just for history’s sake — and next up is the World Series.

Read Tim Kawakami’s Talking Points blog at blogs.mercurynews.com/kawakami. Contact him attkawakami@mercurynews.com.

 

via Kawakami: Put Travis Ishikawa among San Francisco Giants’ legendary heroes – San Jose Mercury News.

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