B.League star Kobe Paras (Altiri Chiba) starting to fly like a Philippine Eagle
Japanese people in general don't have familiarity with the Philippine Eagle. It's the national bird of the Republic of the Philippines known for their beautiful blue eyes and distinguished crest at its top. The king of the jungle also has strong wings which typically covers a wider reach of 6'6" along with a pair of strong feet. It is believed that their feet and sharp talons are strong enough to break the bones of middle-sized mammals.
Adult eagles hunt as a team - like one eagle tries to confuse a herd of animals on the ground and put them in a chaos and another one attacks a strayed one from the sky. After an accurate and cruel assault, the game is in its grim feet and now the pair is on their way home to feed their baby birds.
You see the same kind of characteristics as the national symbol bird in Kobe Paras, a Filipino hoopster who has just joined Altiri Chiba for the 2022-23 season. A 25-years-old, 6'6", 201 lb athletic body with an affectionate look. He was born to a celebrity family in the Philippines and now, backed by 820K+ Instagram followers, is a celebrity himself. Not sucking up to anybody, it's the kind of look with which he could have easily been one of the best-selling ambassadors for luxury fashion brands. He's got that Midas touch of making any outfits he put on look cool.
Kobe PARAS / Altiri Chiba, SF, 6'6" / 201lb
D.O.B. September 19, 1997 (Republic of Philippines)
However, from the standpoint of basketball journalism, the way Paras plays on the basketball court looks even more mind-blowing. And if you are on the opposing team, you have to deal with the threats he presents to you.
Kobe Paras. The kid came flying from the Philippines. He got his name from no other - late great Kobe Bryant. Paras is a baller, no matter what.
Lemanis impressed by Paras' defensive versatility
Offensively, some of the things Paras brings to the table are his athleticism and creativity. He's got the speed, height and patience which help pave the way to muscle through the paint and finish around the rim. He has the ability to find open spots and deliver pocket passes right into the hands of his teammate at the right time. He can make it rain with rainbow threes. It seems like there's nothing Paras doesn't have as a wing player of this age.
Paras started this season a couple weeks later than his teammates and missed six games because of condition issues. But the first active weekend was beyond impressive. In a pair of games on October 22-23 against Kagawa Five Arrows, he was able to help the team deliver two straight wins.
In these two games, he averaged 12.0 points on a 53.5% shooting, including four for eight from beyond the arc, along with 1.0 rebound, 2.0 assists, 1.0 steal. 3.0 blocked shots. After the Game 2 on Sunday 23, where Paras stopped the Arrows to go through with two steals and five nasty rejections to lock it up at the rim, coach Andrej Lemanis praised the newly added wing man and said "I know he’s a very good athlete, but actually a better athlete than I had anticipated."
“He made some shots. We know he can play offense. But how was he going to be at the defensive end, his ability to just rotate, help ‘em out, you know block a shot, get the defensive rebound? We can switch him on the bigger guards like I think he gives some versatility at that end of the floor that we haven’t had in my time here for sure.”
Paras' impact has been felt and obviously growing from game to game as he helps Lemanis maximize the flexibility of his coaching.
As of November 16, Paras has played in seven games, all off the bench, and contributed for five wins - including a nail-biter against the East Division leader Koshigaya Alphas and a 20-point blow-out against the Western Division leader Nagasaki Velca. During that span, Paras averaged 9.9 points on 42.9％ shooting from the field and 38.5％ (10 for 26) from deep, 1.7 rebounds, 2.1 dimes, 0.7 steals and 1.1 blocks. He sometimes shows emotion, which he admits himself, to try to bring the energy to his team.
Even though Paras still plays with some rusty feeling here and there after dealing with his conditioning issues, he's been able to upgrade his performance from last season (where he played 49 games for Niigata Albirex BB and went for 8.2 points on 35.0％ shooting from the field and 35.3％ from 3P area, 2.1 boards, 1.2 assists, 0.7 steals and 0.4 blocks).
"It's still surreal for me to be playing in Japan"
At the postgame presser following the 104-84 victory over Nagasaki on Sunday 13, Paras indicated that the good vibes from the new life in Chiba really kept him in the bag.
"I just feel like the situation I’m in, the team I’m in…, it feels like home. I’m very comfortable with the role I have." Communication is the name of the game in Altiri Chiba and it seems things are rolling for them.
“They’re easy to talk to and get along with. So, to be in an environment like this where I feel very happy in the peace, I feel that’s why I’m performing better. This is just the start of the season. So, hopefully, I’m gonna do a better job and continue this.”
Physically, he says it's getting way better than the point he joined Altiri Chiba before the season opened. But he still has work to do to get to where he wants himself to be. "As everyone can see, I’m still struggling. So, I have to do a better job as a professional to be in a better shape so I can help the team win, whatever they need." So, he's still not who he is yet, which means we've got more to come from him as the season gets deeper.
Paras said to the reporters in the podium that he had even found some go-to food spots for him where he can relax and hang around with his teammates. "I like eating food. So, I just go to the sushi spot or yakiniku or ramen. I’m happy that I’m in the city because I have a lot of choices and I get to eat out with my teammates. So, that’s pretty fine." One thing that's left undone is "finding a nice barber shop", he smiled.
Conversations on Chiba's local fans and the community brought broad smiles over Paras' face. Then he showed his respect to the people around this area by saying "It's still surreal for me to be playing in Japan. I never thought I’d be playing overseas in my life." He's loving it here.
“So, to have local Japanese fans, it’s truly an honor. Hopefully, me representing Chiba, I mean, make the fans even more proud with how I play. And every game we have, whether that be a home game or an away game, the fans cheering us truly give us motivation, especially me. So, I’m just grateful and hope I can keep making the fans proud.”
Paras understands he's putting on the black navy jersey to help Altiri Chiba make history. He is well aware that the expectations from the fans are very high. But he knows how to go beyond that - just fly like a Philippine eagle.
Text by Takeshi Shibata