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.

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?

 

Dallas Mavericks near deal with Japanese point guard Yuki Togashi

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.

Yuki Togashi invited to Dallas Mavericks training camp

The Dallas Mavericks have invited point guard Yuki Togashi to their preseason training camp, according to Cloud9, his management company.

The announcement was made on Tuesday, and Togashi is scheduled to travel to Dallas on Saturday.

Japanese supporters expressed their excitement via Twitter.

Exhibit A: “Yuki Togashi was invited (to) the last camp by the Dallas Mavericks!!” tweeted Akira Tokusatsu. “Great! I know it’s really tough but I believe he takes the chance!!”

Guard Yuta Tabuse, now with the NBL’s Link Tochigi Brex, became the first Japanese to play in the NBA in 2004 during a four-game stint with the Phoenix Suns.

The Mavericks meet the Indiana Pacers in a preseason game on Sunday, and have five more upcoming exhibition matches after that. They open the regular season on the road against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs on Oct. 28

As of Tuesday night (Japan time), the Mavericks had six guards listed on their current roster: Monta Ellis, Raymond Felton, Ricky Ledo, Gal Mekel, Devin Harris and Jameer Nelson.

In July, Togashi, a Niigata Prefecture native, suited up for the Mavs’ NBA Summer League team in Las Vegas. In four games, he saw 37 minutes of court time, including 11 against the Charlotte Hornets in a contest that he had 12 points on 5-for-7 shooting.

Togashi recently played for the Japan national at the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.

The 167-cm Togashi is viewed by some basketball experts as an NBA Development League project for the upcoming season. The 2014 D-League Draft will be held on Nov. 1.

Some insiders believe he’s on the wish list of the Texas Legends, Dallas’ D-League affiliate.

In an interview with dleaguedigest.com in July after the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Texas Legends assistant coach/operations manager Tyler Gatlin was quoted as saying,” We did a bunch of different workouts with Yuki, and eventually we built him up to five-on-five competition where he demonstrated his true point guard abilities. He’s a distributor, and handles the ball really well. He can play in the pick-and-roll offense and doesn’t have to be overly aggressive on scoring. Yuki understands how to get his teammates involved, he’s very savvy.”

Dean Murray, a Legends assistant coach, analyzed Togashi’s overseas pro prospects after the Summer League wrapped up.

“As a player in the D-League, (Togashi) would have to be able to come off the bench and be a ‘change of pace’ player and get the tempo of the game up,” Murray told The Japan Times in July.

“He seemed to be able to make good decisions and not turn the ball over in transition. He also was able to hit the open jump shot, but as a half-court set-up guard that is not his strength at a higher level on the offensive end.”

Murray said Togashi’s size put him at a distinct disadvantage on the defensive end, which could be the biggest factor in whether he earns a roster spot in the NBA or D-League for the coming season.

“He obviously is a good competitor and fan favorite,” Murray said, “but the reality is can he be an effective player off the bench on both the offensive and defensive end and he will have to prove that against bigger and stronger guards.”

Togashi began his pro basketball career with the bj-league’s Akita Northern Happinets in February 2012. As a second-year pro, the 21-year-old led the bj-league in assists (7.9 per game) last season and helped the Northern Happinets earn a championship runnerup finish.

via Togashi invited to Dallas Mavericks training camp | The Japan Times.

Hawaii girl Marysa Carr joins NBA ranks as new Laker Girl

Marysa Carr will realize her own hoop dreams when she takes the court at the Staples Center in Los Angeles as a member of the famed Laker Girls dance squad.

COURTESY LOS ANGELES LAKERSMarysa Carr will join the Laker Girls this season in Los Angeles.

She will literally be following in the footsteps — not to mention the high kicks and spins — of choreographer and former “American Idol” judge Paula Abdul and “Falling Skies” actress Moon Bloodgood, both former Laker Girls.

“I was so excited. It was like I was on a rollercoaster,” said Carr, 25, recalling the moment she learned she had made the 22-member team.

This was the second time Carr auditioned for the Laker Girls. She tried out last year, making it to the final round before being cut.

“I was really bummed for a while but I got over it and I decided to try again,” said the Kamehameha Schools and University of Hawaii graduate.

Her selection this year came after an intense audition process in mid-July involving two days of dance and two days of interviews, competing against about 500 other women at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, Calif.

“You’re just in awe because you’re in the Lakers practice gym and you look around and there are just so many girls and they all look amazing, so it’s definitely a lot of pressure,” she said.

Carr, who graduated from UH in 2013 with a degree in marketing and management, is now busy rehearsing with the team and looking for additional employment. Laker Girls are paid per appearance — 41 regular season home games, as well as preseason and postseason games, if the Lakers advance to the playoffs, and other public events.

Carr was captain of the dance teams at UH and Kamehameha and danced with Kaneohe-based 24-7 Danceforce. Her training at UH came in handy for the auditions, but she knows she’ll have to take it to a different level for the Laker Girls, considered one of the elite squads in sports entertainment.

“I think our style at UH was a little bit more contemporary, and the style of the Laker Girls is a little bit more sharp with their movements,” she said.

She’s looking forward to the Lakers’ upcoming season, hoping to watch an injury-free Kobe Bryant lead a young team, and is throwing herself into learning the Laker Girls’ routines.

“We’re just working really hard,” she said. “I didn’t realize how hard the Laker Girls work to perfect their craft.”

via Carr joins NBA ranks as new Laker Girl – Honolulu Pulse – Hawaii Entertainment, Food and NightlifeHonolulu Pulse – Hawaii Entertainment, Food and Nightlife.

Yao Ming makes appearance at NBA preseason game in Shanghai

20110604110929506SHANGHAI — 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.

Jeremy Lin knows he’ll have important role – ESPN

LOS ANGELES — Jeremy Lin is technically not the Los Angeles Lakers’ starting point guard.

When the Lakers printed out their starting lineup before Thursday’s preseason game against the Golden State Warriors, Lin was listed as a backup to Steve Nash.

Jeremy Lin knows that regardless of whether he starts, he figures to get plenty of playing time for the Lakers this season.
The truth is Lin figures to start more games this season than Nash, who will turn 41 in February and played in only 15 games last season. Lin also figures to play more minutes than Nash even in games he doesn’t start.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, least of all Nash, who said he understands the Lakers can’t depend on him as an every-day starter at this point in his career.

So on Thursday night Lin played his first game at Staples Center as a Laker, and, not surprisingly, it was as a starter after Lakers coach Byron Scott gave Nash the night off. It’s a position Lin, who finished with 14 points, four assists and four rebounds, should get used to this season, even if he hasn’t been given the chance to get used to it during practice yet.

“I thought it went fine,” Lin said of his first time starting alongside Kobe Bryant. “I haven’t even taken reps with the first team in practice, so this is the first time I did anything with him pretty much. It’s just a growth process and learning each other’s spots. I think the second half we were a lot more comfortable than in the first half.”

Scott has talked to Lin about his role, which doesn’t really change whether he’s a starter or coming off the bench. The only real difference is whether he will hear his name being called during opening introductions.

“He’s got to be ready every night,” Scott said. “Every game might be different. That’s one of the things we have that we just don’t know with Steve right now. Jeremy knows every game he’s going to play, but there’s going to be games that he’s going to start and he’s going to have to play a lot more minutes.”

Lin can be a playmaker in the open court and create his own shots, as he did Thursday, but with Nash’s uncertain health and Nick Young sidelined for the next eight weeks, the Lakers’ depth is already being challenged. Without Young, Lin was a possible scoring threat coming off the bench, but if he is forced to start, that role could go to someone like Julius Randle, Wayne Ellington or Jordan Clarkson, who suffered a left calf strain in the second quarter Thursday and didn’t return.

“I don’t think [my role] changes,” Lin said. “I think my usage rate will go up, but in terms of what I’m doing, it’s going to be the same, maybe just a little more of what I’m supposed to do.”

Lin and Nash worked out a few times in the offseason, and Lin hasn’t been shy about asking Nash’s advice on running an offense and being a better point guard.

“I’ve been talking to him, and he told me how to play cat and mouse and change of pace and deception,” Lin said. “I’ve learned the most just from watching him, but I ask him questions as well.”

As much as Nash would like to play this season, he understands he is essentially an extension of the coaching staff. When he’s sitting out games and practices, he can still have an impact on the team and Lin, in particular.

“I’m here to help him out however I can,” Nash said. “If I can help give him advice or help with his game, then it will be a pleasure for me. I think he’s got a lot of potential, and he’s already kind of cemented himself in the league, so whatever he needs from me I’d love to help and I’d love to see him really succeed.”

When the Lakers are at full strength, Scott will also experiment with a backcourt of Nash and Lin in which either player can bring the ball up and create for the other.

“I feel like when we play together, either of us can bring the ball up,” Lin said. “He can score the ball, so my job is to make sure I put him in a position where he can score the ball and where he likes it the best. We’ll both be able to facilitate and create for each other.”

The biggest issue for the Lakers on Thursday in their 120-105 loss to the Warriors was defense. It was the Lakers’ biggest problem last season and the biggest point of emphasis during training camp. They let the Warriors shoot 56 percent from the field, 57.1 percent from beyond the arc and gave up 22 second-chance points. Lin will never be confused with an all-defensive player, but Bryant has been pushing him to be better on that end of the floor.

“I’m really going to challenge him to be a great defensive player because he can,” Bryant said. “He has the speed, he has the length, he has the size, but he’s never had to take on that challenge, but I think he can be a great defensive player.”

Lin has embraced Bryant’s advice and can often be seen talking to him during practices and through the first two preseason games. Bryant knows Lin is a talented offensive player, but the majority of their conversations during practices and games have centered on defense.

“That’s pretty much all I talk to him about on the court,” Lin said. “He’s pushing me and he’s demanding a lot from me. He’s definitely taken on a mentorship role for me on the court. That’s something that I don’t think I’ve had in my previous four years in the league. It’s just nice to have somebody who is pushing me and helping me and teaching me the tricks. It’s also nice when he’s one of the best to ever do it.”

via Jeremy Lin knows he'll have important role – ESPN Los Angeles.