LOS ANGELES/MANILA (via PhilAmPress) – Three Filipino Americans have joined different teams in this year’s season of the National Basketball Association (NBA).
This as 6’6” Kobe Paras, son of former Philippine basketball star and now actor Jerome Paras, has opted to play with the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) which produced Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Reggie Miller and Kevin Love, buoying hopes for a full-blooded Filipino to eventually play soon with the NBA.
The California-based Paras said he is thankful and fully committed to attend the UCLA after receiving a scholarship grant – thanks to his impressive showing during senior year at Los Angeles Cathedral.
Paras actually received various scholarship offers but he chose UCLA perhaps because of its winning tradition and impressive batting average in producing NBA players.
The former La Salle Greenhills standout was recruited by UCLA Coach Steve Alford, who played for Bobby Knight at Indiana University during the 1980’s and has been coaching UCLA for two seasons.
The three FilAm NBA players is led by 6’5” guard Jordan Clarkson of Missouri who signed up for the Los Angeles Lakers last August and has since made good impressions with his coach and teammates led by basketball star Kobe Bryant. Clarkson’s mother Anette is a pure Filipino. He sports the jersey no. 5.
The Cleveland Cavaliers, the new team of another basketball star, LeBron James, on the other hand, has taken in FilAm guard Stephen Holt who earlier was eyed as possible member of the Philippine national basketball team Gilas Pilipinas.
The third FilAm player is guard Aaron Craft who is part of the training camp roster of the Golden State Warriors.
It was gathered that the first Filipino American players in the NBA is Raymond “Ray” Anthony Townsend, who was born and studied in San Jose, California who played for the collegiate tourney champion UCLA before joining the NBA’s Golden State Warriors in 1978.
In 1979, another FilAm, Ricardo Brown, whose mother Connie Vidal was from Sta. Cruz, Manila, was drafted by Houston Rockets in the NBA. He played college basketball for the Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He later played for the Philippine National Team Northern Cement then owned by Ambassador Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. and coached by Ron Jacobs. The team won the Jones Cup championship in Taiwan in 1980.
The 6’3” Townsend, whose mother, Virgilia Marella, hailed from Balayan, Batangas, concluded his NBA stint in 1982 with the Indiana Pacers. His brother, Kurtis, is assistant coach for the University of Kansas Jayhawks men’s basketball team which won the 2008 NCAA Championship. Townsend also played in Italy for Banco Roma during the 1984-85 season.
According to records, Townsend, considered the first FilAm and first Asian American in the NBA, and several NBA players like Jamaal Wilkes, Cliff Ray, Derrek Dickey and Greg Lee toured the Philippines and played a series of exhibition games in Manila, Olongapo City and Cebu City.
The Cleveland Cavaliers signed up undrafted Fil-Am guard Stephen Holt to a contract that would allow him to participate in the training camp, general manager David Griffin announced in the team’s official website.
Holt has been eyed by Philippine national men’s basketball team coach Chot Reyes to be part of the Gilas Pilipinas cadet pool. The 6’4″ guard was not selected in this year’s draft and eventually joined the Atlanta Hawks summer league team.
The 6-foot-5 guard Clarkson had an impressive stint in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, averaging 15.8 points and five rebounds to lead the Lakers.
Clarkson made heads turn in his Summer League debut, scoring 21 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals in an 88-78 loss against the Toronto Raptors, according to published reports.
Despite signing a contract, Clarkson may have a difficult time to crack the Lakers’ guard-heavy rotation, with Jeremy Lin, Steve Nash, Nick Young and Xavier Henry likely to be given more playing time.
Clarkson was selected 46th overall by the Washington Wizards in the 2014 NBA Draft, but the Lakers acquired him in a draft day deal.
Clarkson is proud of his Filipino roots and this early he is being dubbed by his mother’s countrymen as the Filipino Jordan. He likes Filipino food like lumpia. His mother is from Angeles City. Although he played for Missouri in college, he was born in Texas.
Clarkson said he has not visited the basketball-crazy Phlippines but plans to visit soon. (PhilAmPress)