By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
DEEMED a talent who got away, Filipino-American player Chris Koon has had a change of heart and is now excited to play for the reigning three-time University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) men’s basketball champions Ateneo Blue Eagles.
A product of Rolling Hills Preparatory in California where he averaged 16 points, 6.6 rebounds, and 4.0 assists, and helped the school to three straight California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section titles and a CIF state championship, Koon is now focused on having the same success and impact in parlaying his wares in the local collegiate scene.
Koon, who traces his Filipino roots to Novaliches, Quezon City, through mother Iderlina Acosta, was being eyed by Ateneo in the last few years but in 2019, was recruited by California State Polytechnic University in Pomona, where he committed but redshirted in his rookie year.
Having had the chance to see the culture in Ateneo firsthand and the basketball program it had under coach Tab Baldwin in a visit to the country last year, Koon said he just felt he needed to come over and play for the Blue Eagles and get his education in Ateneo.
“When I visited a year ago, I saw the school’s culture. Coach Tab is one of the best coaches out there and I felt the family vibe when I was there,” said Koon in an online interview session with local media on Friday.
“I’m excited to play for Ateneo and contribute the best way I can,” added the 6’5” player, who will be sitting out Season 83 of the UAAP to complete his one-year residency.
Koon is described as an all-around player who can create plays both for himself and his teammates.
“He’s a very smart and tough player and I think his transition into our program will be fairly seamless and won’t require a lot of adjustment and adaptability,” said Mr. Baldwin, who joined Koon and Ateneo team manager Chris Quimpo, in the interview.
“He has a high basketball I.Q., he is a leader, and I expect him to be one when he joins us,” added the coach of Koon, a school mate at Cal Poly Pomona of fellow Ateneo recruit Dwight Ramos.
But while Koon is expected to shore up the Blue Eagles’ basketball program for years to come, both Messrs. Baldwin and Quimpo said the move to Ateneo by the Filipino-American player could also be a boon to the latter, not only as a player but as an individual.
“He (Koon) wants to be with a winning program and I think Ateneo gives him that. We have a system here that identifies weaknesses in one’s game, addresses those weaknesses and turns them to strengths,” said Mr. Baldwin.
“And it’s not just as a player that we want to develop Chris but also academically. We want him to finish his studies,” Mr. Quimpo, for his part, said, taking note of Koon’s 4.5 grade point average (GPA) in high school.
Koon, the second prized recruit of the team recently after Filipino-Italian Gab Gomez, is now enrolled in Ateneo, taking up a Management Economics course.
He said eventually he wants to play in the Philippine Basketball Association or internationally, depending on how his game develops.