In 1986, a towering rookie from San Beda High led the University of the Philippines Fighting Maroons to their first and only UAAP men’s basketball title. Now, 27 years later, his son, a high school standout from La Salle Greenhills, hopes to win for UP its second crown.
Andre Paras decided to follow his father Benjie’s footsteps by joining the Maroons despite offers from other top college teams. “I tried out with other schools but felt most welcome and at home in UP,” said the 17-year old Paras who claimed that his decision was not influenced by his parents, who are both UP graduates. He previously joined the training sessions of La Salle, Ateneo and San Beda.
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But a key factor in this decision was Andre’s wish to take up film studies, which UP is undeniably the best in teaching. “I see my dad acting and it somehow got me interested in this field. I’ve also done some TV commercials. Someday, I’d like to be a director or even be in front of the camera,” added Andre who has appeared in several TV ads. Of course, Benjie entered show business even before he retired from playing pro hoops in the PBA. While still in the active roster of the San Miguel Beermen in 2002, the elder Paras started appearing as a special guest in various TV sitcoms and movie films. After retiring in 2003, he became a regular cast at popular shows like “Oki Doki Doc”, “Haybol Rambol” and “Kool Ka Lang” among others. Today, the only player to ever win the MVP and Rookie of the Year awards in the same PBA season is one of the most recognizable actors in Philippine show business.
Andre averaged 5.4 points, five rebounds and 1.1 blocks in his last NCAA season for La Salle. In Game 1 of the 2011 NCAA Juniors finals between LSGH and eventual champion San Beda, he scattered 13 points including a crucial putback and shotblock in the final minute to tow the Junior Blazers to an 85-82 upset win over the Red Cubs. His brother Kobe is also playing for LSGH.
Another important factor in his decision to join UP was his familiarity with its basketball system. Both Maroons’ head coach Ricky Dandan and LSGH’s chief bench tactician John Flores are protégés of legendary coach Joe Lipa. They run similar offenses and defensive tactics.
“As a rookie, I just want to learn and improve more as a player and gel with my teammates. We run almost the same system in high school so it’s easier for me to adapt,” said the 6’4” power forward who would occasionally play the center position for the Maroons.
“I need to focus on getting bigger especially in my position where I will be going up against much older, bigger and more experienced opponents. I need to work harder in the weights gym, and also on the court to improve my basketball skills.”
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With Andre adding size, athleticism and versatility to the Maroons’ frontline, UP is hoping to improve on its 1-13 win-loss card last year.
When asked if he can also lead the Maroons to another title like his father did in 1986, his reply was, “It’s possible. We have a good team. We have good chemistry. But I don’t want to be compared with my dad. I think we are very different in playing style and he had a different situation when he was my age. But we both value education and career.”
Andre is clearly excited about this coming UAAP season. “I’d like to thank the UP community for such a warm welcome. I am truly grateful. We will do our very best to win.”
As for Benjie, his son’s school of choice only made him more proud of the young Andre. “I agree with him that it’s the right decision. He practiced with La Salle, Ateneo and San Beda, and we both saw that the chances of making it to their rosters this year is slim. They are all loaded in the position Andre plays in. UP was the last school he tried out in. But when I asked how he felt there, he said he was happy. And for me, that was the end of the story,” said Benjie.
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The former two-time PBA MVP was likewise a high school standout for San Beda. But SBC bolted the NCAA in 1983 that forced many former Red Cubs to jump ship to the Maroons’ camp. Paras rejoined former juniors teammates Ronnie Magsanoc, Eric Altamirano and Herbert Wenceslao to form a formidable line-up that finally brought the UAAP diadem to Diliman. He plugged the gaping hole in the middle of the Maroons squad that was jokingly called the “donut” team.
“During my time, I found myself without a team when San Beda quit the NCAA. I also tried out with La Salle and Ateneo. UP was also the last team I went to. But when I came there, I also felt the same thing Andre felt,” said Paras.
“I’m happy here,” Andre says. And, like his dad mentioned, that's the end of the story.
Editor's note: The blogger's views do not represent Yahoo! Southeast Asia's position on the topic or issue being discussed in this post.