MANILA, 13 June 2003 — If you think you have seen the last of Benjie Paras, think again.
The two-time Most Valuable Player (MVP) winner came out of retirement to wear a different jersey in the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA).
Paras, one of the cagers of all-time, has signed up a two-month contract with San Miguel, only his second team in a colorful 14-year PBA career that started in 1989.
The 34-year-old former Shell franchise player had already announced his retirement from playing in the pro league and his No. 14 jersey had been retired by Shell officials in a brief ceremony at half-time of the team’s game early this year.
Paras has made history when he won the coveted MVP and Rookie of the Year awards during his rookie season.
“We’re glad to have him around. We can’t expect a lot because he’s been gone awhile but considering our situation, it’s good to have him with us,” San Miguel coach Jong Uichico said.
Before joining the Beermen, the 6-foot-4 former UP King Maroon had spent all the first 14 seasons of his pro career with Shell, He had become a member of the touring San Miguel Beer North All-Star team.
At San Miguel, Paras wears the No. 14 for a while since San Miguel officials plan to retire Hector Calma’s (No. 14), Samboy Lim’s (No. 9) and Allan Caidic’s (No. 8) numbers soon.
San Miguel sorely needs a center to beef up the team’s decimated line-up in the ongoing All-Filipino Cup.
So the arrival of the man called ‘Tower of Power’ is timely.
His services would surely come in handy for San Miguel, whose center, Dorian Pe?a, was suspended starting last week and forced to undergo a year-long rehab by the league for failing a second drug test.
Also to be missed by San Miguel going into the intra-group quarterfinals this week are the services of guard-forward Danny Seigle, who still has to fully recuperate from an Achilles tendon tear.
Beermen team manager Robert Non said the next deal with Paras after the completion of his two-month deal would be based on what the slotman’s shows in practice.
Injuries took its toll on Paras the last three years, and it was so bad he only saw action in 44 games from 2000 to 2002 - 12 less than his total number of games the second time he captured the MVP honors in 1999.
A frail knee has forced Paras to miss out most games last year.
Paras, however, is expected to play off the bench as he tries to feel his way back to the game, although those who have been watching him since he retired swear he’s going to catch everybody by surprise.
“He’s going to surprise a lot of people. And this is a perfect situation for him because he’s motivated. He wants to prove something to a lot of people,” said Eric Altamirano, the former coach who handles the San Miguel All-Stars, a team of former pros touring the countryside to promote the products of San Miguel Corp. Prior to joining the Beermen, Paras had a stint with the All-Stars.
“He dunks, runs the court well and bangs bodies. He’s in good shape, as good as he was in when he won the MVP in 1999,” Altamirano added. Although nobody was saying it outwardly, a huge part of Paras’ motivation will be to prove he wasn’t really ready to retired yet when Shell sent him off in simple ceremonies early this year.
The two-time MVP will join another player who has won the trophy twice, Danny Ildefonso, as San Miguel hopes to get a foot ahead of the Group A quarterfinalists in this tight race to the top two slots.