Once signed to UCLA, Filipino prep phenom Kobe Paras instead committed to Creighton’s basketball team after withdrawing from his former school over alleged academic concerns.
“We’re always looking for players who’ve grown up immersed in basketball, and Kobe definitely fits that mold,” said UCLA head coach Steve Alford when Paras signed with the Bruins in November. “He just loves the game. To add a talented player like Kobe to our program is terrific. He’s a very athletic guard who plays with tremendous energy. We like how he can attack off the dribble and get to the rim in the open court, and we’re excited that he’ll be joining us in Westwood.”
In late June, however, UCLA’s athletic department issued the following statement regarding his departure: “Incoming freshman guard Kobe Paras, admitted upon condition to UCLA, has withdrawn from the university due to academic conditions of his admission not being met.”
As rumors swirled about the top-25 ranked two guard‘s NCAA eligibility, Los Angeles Cathedral High principal John Montgomery, whose school Paras attended since 2013-14, told the L.A. Times, “There was an SAT scoring issue,” but the 18-year-old was an honors student.
That vague statement led to even more widespread speculation, so William Middlebrooks, who coached Paras both at Cathedral and on the Middlebrooks Academy squad this past year, issued a more detailed statement to the Sports Interactive Network in the Philippines.
Middlebrooks said Paras met the NCAA Eligibility Center’s academic requirements, but UCLA’s admissions department “made the decision not to admit Kobe Paras” independently.
“This is not a hype issue or a reflection of any on-the-court issues,” Middlebrooks said in the statement. “Kobe is very close to many of his now former teammates at UCLA as well as the UCLA coaching staff. Kobe had been committed to UCLA for a long period of time. The UCLA coaching staff and Kobe Paras are all deeply sorrowful over this university decision that is unfortunately beyond all of their control. However it is a decision that all parties must accept and move forward.”
Now, almost three weeks later, Paras has committed to Creighton, which lands an uber-athletic talent who won the dunk contest at both the 2013 and 2015 FIBA 3×3 Under-18 World Championships while competing for the Philippine national team.
“It’s been a crazy month,” Paras said in a YouTube video. “I’ve had dreams that were crushed, but I’ve been talking to coach Middlebrooks … and it made so much sense that dreams don’t really necessarily need to be one dream. One dream can explode to different things, and I’m happy that there were a lot of coaches that hit me up after the incident. I felt really loved, and it was crazy how I saw that there’s not just one school out there for me. There were a lot of schools I could choose, but I found the perfect fit, and being a Bluejay is what it is.”