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.
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
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.”
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,”
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.
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.
=> 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.
=> 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.
=> 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.
=> Draft; Late 1st, Early 2nd
=> Feel for Game, Highly Skilled
=> Needs to Add Strength
=> D Upside; Mobility & Length
=> When Will He Come Over?
IRVING, Texas — The Dallas Mavericks are finalizing paperwork to sign Japanese point guard Yuki Togashi.
The plan is for the 21-year-old Togashi, who stands 5-foot-6 and weighs 145 pounds, to spend the rest of the preseason with the Mavs before joining their D-League affiliate Texas Legends.
“It’s going to be a great experience,” Togashi said.
The Legends will automatically own Togashi’s rights in the likely event that he is waived by the Mavs.
Togashi played the last season and a half in the Japanese pro league and was on the Mavs’ summer league team.
via Dallas Mavericks near deal with Japanese point guard Yuki Togashi – ESPN Dallas.
SHANGHAI — Mirza Teletovic sank a 3-pointer with less than a minute remaining to lift the Brooklyn Nets to a 97-95 preseason win over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday in the first of two NBA exhibition games to be played in China this year.
The Kings had a chance to tie the score with 20 seconds remaining, but Sergey Karasev blocked a jumper by Ben McLemore beneath the rim as time expired.
Brook Lopez led the Nets with 18 points and six rebounds and Deron Williams added 12 points and six assists. Teletovic and Jarrett Jack had 10 points apiece.
The Kings were led by Ramon Sessions off the bench with 18 points and Darren Collison with 15.
Sacramento opened up a 95-91 lead on a jumper by rookie Nik Stauskas with 2:23 left in the game, but Marquis Teague sank three of four free throws down the stretch before Teletovic sealed the win with his 3-pointer off a pass from Jack.
The game marked the 10th anniversary of the NBA’s first pre-season exhibitions in China, played by the Kings and Yao Ming’s Houston Rockets in Shanghai and Beijing in 2004.
Yao was on hand to celebrate the anniversary, entering the arena midway through the first quarter to a huge round of applause. He was joined by a handful of other former NBA stars, including Shaquille O’Neal — who grabbed the microphone late in the game and bellowed “Ni hao” (Hello) to the fans — as well as former Kings players Vlade Divac, Mitch Richmond and Peja Stojakovic.
The Kings and Nets play again in Beijing on Wednesday.
A lot has changed since the first NBA game in Shanghai in 2004, which was played at a rundown city gymnasium with only 3,000 tickets available for fans. By contrast, Sunday’s game was played at the state-of-the-art, 18,000-seat Mercedes Benz Arena with giant screens mounted over the courts, corporate hospitality booths and a halftime acrobatic show.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver noted how important the Chinese market has become in recent years, saying there are now 300 million people playing basketball in the country-nearly the entire population of the United States.
“The growth of the NBA over the last decade has exceeded our expectations,” he said. “It’s been remarkable over the past 10 years how knowledgeable the Chinese fans have become about the NBA, and not just its superstars but every roster from player one to player 15.”
via Brooklyn Nets vs. Sacramento Kings – Recap – October 12, 2014 – ESPN.