The University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) may be the more popular league, but when it comes to grooming the next college basketball superstars, the National College Athletic Association (NCAA) high school division has so much to choose from.
The popularity of rising stars Javee Mocon and Kobe Paras were palpable at the NCAA 2013 Juniors finals. It showed that, if properly promoted, an NCAA finals game between San Beda and La Salle Green Hills would be greatly anticipated.
Mocon, three-time Most Valuable Player of the San Beda Red Cubs, showed tremendous potential when he first played with a ball at age 6. When he turned 8, his dad and his brothers persuaded him to play basketball.
At the start he played the sport for fun. But his skills caught the attention of coaches, which led to recruitment offers.
Javee’s love and appreciation for basketball grew. The sense of belonging and camaraderie in the team drove his passion.
He still finds time to shoot hoops at home with his brothers and friends, even as he has to attend daily practice with the Red Cubs after school.
But of course he makes sure to devote many hours to academics. This is why, in his downtime, Javee enjoys spending time with the family, playing computer games and watching movies.
As for his for future plans, Javee hopes to improve his skills further and build enough confidence to help him achieve his ultimate goal: To play in the PBA.
Young as he is to give advice to aspiring athletes, Javee says: “Believe in yourself and climb the ladder of success. Work hard, pray hard.”
Slam dunk champ
He may just be the son of actor and former basketball star Benjie Paras, but 16-year-old Kobe Paras has enough talent to make a name for himself. And in the past couple of years, he became pretty successful in doing just that.
When Paras was 7 years old, his family moved to a new house where a basketball court lay around the corner. It was there where he first played the game.
In 2013, he won the slam dunk title in the FIBA 3 x 3 U-18 World Championship in Jakarta, Indonesia. But Paras first caught the world’s attention when he made an incredible dunk over Miami Heat forward Lebron James during the NBA superstar’s Nike Witness Tour in Manila last year.
Paras says he loves basketball because it always challenges him and keeps him on his toes. His family and friends do not only have a mutual passion for the sport, but they also lend him their full support.
Paras attends practice sessions at least three hours daily, and twice a day during summer. Whenever time permits, he enjoys playing the guitar and listening to his boom box, as well as watching movies with family and friends.
Dad Benjie, the only rookie-MVP in PBA history, currently plays Papa Bear or Chito Tampipi in the teleserye “Got to Believe.” There have been speculations that the younger Paras might be following in his dad’s footsteps, from being a basketball star to a film and TV actor. But he says he has no plans of getting into show biz.
“He’s very focused on improving his game and finishing his studies,” Benjie says.
In the meantime, the basketball court serves as Kobe Paras’ own stage.
PHOTOGRAPHY KAITY CHUA STYLING LUIS CARLOSAN JUAN GROOMING JUSTINE DEL ROSARIO AND SARI CAMPOS HAIRSTYLE MARK FAMILARA FOR L’OREAL PROFESSIONNEL