Kobe Paras foregoes final year in UP, joins US-based sports agency

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 20) – Versatile forward Kobe Paras will not play his final year with the University of the Philippines as he joins a US-based sports agency that also handles Filipino basketball prodigy Kai Sotto.

"UP, you welcomed me with open arms. I'm grateful for everything," Paras tweeted on Wednesday. 

East West Private announced on Tuesday that the 6-foot-6 forward will join their stable, also composed of other US-based Filipino American players like 7-foot-1 center and Gilas Pilipinas prospect Sage Tolentino of Auburn University.

"Let tomorrow be your second chance to prove that you are better than today and yesterday. Welcome to the family Kobe!" the sports agency said on Instagram.

UP head coach Bo Perasol also confirmed Paras' departure, who thanked the 23-year-old player's commitment to the team and being part of the rebuilding program of the Diliman-based squad.

"His commitment in helping out our program has gone beyond our initial agreement of him playing for us for 1 or 2 seasons depending on what will come his way after each season. He was unwavering in his commitment to play for another season last year," Perasol told CNN Philippines.

Perasol added the uncertainties over the resumption of college basketball in the Philippines led Paras to leave the country.

"In the past few weeks, Kobe and I had discussed lengthily about his various opportunities amidst this lingering pandemic situation. We are both unsure and not so hopeful that college basketball will resume this year," Perasol said. "It is in this backdrop that we agreed that he has to pursue his other opportunities."

Before returning to the Philippines to join UP in 2018, Paras spent five years in the US. He finished his secondary education in Cathedral High School, where he also played for Middlebrooks Academy in his senior year.

A four-star recruit entering college, Paras committed to play for athletic powerhouse University of California, Los Angeles but withdrew a year after due to academic reasons. He then played for the Creighton Bluejays for one season.

In 2017, Paras transferred to Cal State Northridge but left the program on March 2018 after the school fired head coach Reggie Theus and athletic director Brandon Martin.

Paras averaged 16.1 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.1 steals, and 2.5 blocks in his lone season with the Fighting Maroons, where his father Benjie also played for in college. With his numbers, he earned a spot in the UAAP Mythical Five Team.

CNN Philippines correspondent Pauline Verzosa contributed in this report.