Gilas Pilipinas brought a young but talented pool to Manama, Bahrain for the second window of the 2021 FIBA Asia Cup Qualifiers.
One thing the team lacked, though, was height. The team only had an average height of 6-foot-4, and only had three legit big men in 6-foot-8 Isaac Go, 6-foot-8 Kemark Carino, and 6-foot-7 Justine Baltazar.
So Gilas program director Tab Baldwin asked Kobe Paras to make a sacrifice — play out of his position for his country.
Despite standing at 6-foot-6, Paras is a swingman by trade.
Still, he embraced the role.
“He submitted himself to the environment. He worked extremely hard.
“We played him out of position because we really needed his size and strength around the basket, and he wasn’t comfortable at all so that was a burden he carried for us and never complained once,” Baldwin told Coaches Unfiltered presented by SMART Sports.
“I think at one point in the second game, I said, ‘Kobe, go out and play on the wing now’. And he said ‘Thank you coach, I’m dying to do that’, and with a grin on his face. We were aware that we were asking him to make an additional sacrifice playing out of position, but never a peep of him about that. Did his job. Did it at the best of his ability,” he continued.
Unlike his stint in UP last season that saw him cop All-UAAP team honors, Paras did not score as much in the two games played against Thailand.
In the first game, he had seven rebounds and two steals in 21 minutes of game time. He followed it up with a four-rebound, three-assist, and a block outing in 18 minutes in the second game.
Overall, he was a plus-20 when he was on the floor as Paras was not afraid to guard 5-foot-11 Nattakarn Muangboon to 6-foot-8 Chanatip Jakrawan.
And Paras had no qualms about it, since it ended up in two wins.
“First time I’ve been around Kobe to work with him as a player, and you talk about pleasant surprises — Kobe’s attitude is extraordinary.
“He really, really wants to be a great player — he has an extremely competitive mindset. And obviously, from an athletic standpoint, he is elite. He is one of the best athletes I’ve been around, but Kobe has a lot to learn about the game. And I think if you track Kobe’s development over the years, it’s always been at the standpoint of ‘come in and be the star’. So he’s always carried a huge weight of expectation, and when you add to that that Kobe can dazzle us with highlights, a lot of people get confused between highlights and actually quality basketball,” Baldwin opined.
“That’s where Kobe is, his pathway or his runway is longer. He’s learning to be a quality basketball player in the context of what the team demands of him and the context of playing around a lot of other elite talents. But all credit to Kobe because his attitude is as good as everybody else there,” continued the American-Kiwi coach.
Come future iterations of Gilas, Baldwin wants to continue working with Paras.
“He was frustrated he didn’t put in better performances, but as far as I was concerned, his plus minuses were good, his heart stats were always very good. He was out there working extremely hard to do a great job for the team, and Kobe to me is long-term potentially a tremendous player for our program.”