THE TIME OF ATKINS

DE LA SALLE UNIVER­SITY LAST CAPTUREDTHE UAAP CROWN IN 2007. ONLY ONE PLAYER RE­MAINS ONTHE GREEN ARCHER LINEUP FROMTHAT CHAM­PI­ONSHIPTEAM.

Rebound Magazine - - UAAPDLSU - by An­ton Roxas

“This is my year,” said a con­fi­dent Si­mon Atkins while lin­ing up be­hind his team­mates for a shoot­ing drill. Prac­tice was in session at the 9th floor of the De La Salle Univer­sity Sports Com­plex and the team cap­tain had his game face on, mov­ing at game speed as he ran through imag­i­nary screens to re­ceive a pass on the left wing.

SWISH.

“I just have to stay healthy,” he would add later. In his first three sea­sons with DLSU, Atkins bat­tled through var­i­ous in­juries, thus lim­it­ing his per­for­mance and the op­por­tu­nity to re­al­ize his po­ten­tial. La Salle fans held their breath in a 2008 game against the Univer­sity of the East when Atkins banged the back of his head hard on the floor of the Araneta Coli­seum while draw­ing a charge from Rudy Ling­ganay. Atkins had to be taken out on a stretcher and to a hos­pi­tal. It was a rocky start for the col­lege ca­reer of the for­mer De La Salle-Zo­bel high school star.

Atkins was proudly born in the Philip­pines to a Bri­tish fa­ther and a Filip­ina mother. He be­gan play­ing bas­ket­ball at the age of 4. “ Nagsim­ula ako sa mga liga liga sa vil­lage,” he shared. “And then, even­tu­ally, a par­ent of my kal­a­ban sa vil­lage league told me that I should try out sa Zo­bel. So, I did. That’s when I first got into La Salle.”

In 2003, Atkins had his UAAP Ju­niors de­but in the league’s 66th sea­son and was hailed as one of the mem­bers of the Myth­i­cal Five. He was merely a sopho­more stu­dent then. His se­nior year in high school was a his­toric one as he led De La Salle-Zo­bel to its first ever UAAP Ju­niors cham­pi­onship (he was cho­sen as a mem­ber of the Myth­i­cal Five again) along with team­mates Martin Reyes, Migs de Asis and Dan Sal­vador, all of whom would go

on to play for the Univer­sity of the Philip­pines the fol­low­ing year. De­spite hav­ing to wait an en­tire year be­fore be­ing able to play in the Se­niors be­cause of the La Salle sus­pen­sion in 2006, Atkins re­mained pa­tient. “I don’t care if I only play a year or two in the UAAP, I will only play for La Salle,” he said proudly at that time.

Now, 22 years old with a hard earned de­gree in Psy­chol­ogy, Atkins has one last mis­sion be­fore he says good­bye to the in­sti­tu­tion he spent 11 long years of his life in. Af­ter com­ing off the best sea­son of his UAAP ca­reer last year where he led the Green Archers in scor­ing (8.9 PPG) and as­sists (3.4 PPG), Atkins is

SOME­TIMES, EVEN IF YOU’RE A NICE GUY, YOU NEEDTO BE AN A**.

hell bent on lead­ing his team back to the promised land.

UAAP SEA­SON 74 is his fi­nal sea­son.

It’s go­ing to be an emo­tional one, right?

Well, RE­BOUND: Congratulations on grad­u­at­ing from La Salle! How does it feel? Si­mon: It’s ac­tu­ally pretty sad be­cause I’ve spent half of my life play­ing bas­ket­ball for La Salle. I’d like to call it a won­der­ful jour­ney. Even if it was painful and tiring, it was still a won­der­ful jour­ney. But, I still have one more UAAP sea­son left. I en­tered DLSU as a cham­pion and I want to leave DLSU as a cham­pion. RE­BOUND: What do you love the most about DLSU? Si­mon: My team­mates, syem­pre and of course, the Pu­maren sys­tem. I love how the alumni sup­ports the play­ers, the ed­u­ca­tion that I got from the school, and es­pe­cially my friends. I’ve been here for six years. It was fun and come to think about it, it seemed so fast. RE­BOUND: What will you miss the most about play­ing in the UAAP? Si­mon: I’m go­ing to miss the pres­sure. In the UAAP, it doesn’t mat­ter which team you play against, the pres­sure is al­ways there be­cause a lot of peo­ple ex­pect a lot from us. RE­BOUND: You’re known as the player that led De La Salle-Zo­bel to its first ever UAAP Ju­niors cham­pi­onship back in 2005. Si­mon: It’s al­ways flat­ter­ing for me to hear that, of course, but dur­ing that time, bas­ket­ball for me was all about hav­ing fun. When I ar­rived in Taft, with all these peo­ple spend­ing money for the team, I felt the pres­sure to per­form. The level of bas­ket­ball the play­ers play in col­lege is so much higher. Here, I want to be re­mem­bered like how I was in Zo­bel, a leader. RE­BOUND: Talk about the ex­pe­ri­ence of win­ning a UAAP cham­pi­onship in col­lege. Si­mon: I was re­ally ex­cited to play for DLSU. My first year play­ing af­ter the sus­pen­sion, tapos cham­pion agad. Win­ning the cham­pi­onship back then was a bonus for me. It was a great feel­ing. But, rookie pa lang ako noon, I was just a re­liever dur­ing that time: the time of TY,

the time of Ca­sio, the time of Maier­hofer. I want the cham­pi­onship now. I want them to say that 2011 was the time of Atkins. RE­BOUND: What did you learn from those vet­er­ans – Tang, Ca­sio and Maier­hofer? Si­mon: Af­ter the many years of play­ing with them, nakita ko yung pas­sion nila sa game ta­laga. They re­ally wanted to win ev­ery game. Even in ev­ery prac­tice, they make it count. Walang pac­ing pac­ing. They went all out ev­ery time. But, even be­fore, sin­abi na nila sa akin be­fore na one day, you’re go­ing to lead this team. RE­BOUND: Is there any­thing spe­cific that they told you that you still carry up to this day? Si­mon: They told me that some­times, even if you’re a nice guy, you need to be an a**. If you have to make a point, do it. I’m re­ally try­ing to be that guy but some­times, my ap­proach with my team­mates is dif­fer­ent. I don’t want to pres­sure them too much. I just tell them to play their game. But, if that doesn’t work then that’s the time I have to give them some tough love. RE­BOUND: You backed up TY Tang at the point. What lessons did he pass on to you? Si­mon: TY taught me to just en­joy the game. He told me not to think about the ex­ter­nal fac­tors like kung ano yung sasabi­hin ng ibang tao, ganyan. As long as you’re hav­ing fun and help­ing your team­mates look good, then you’re do­ing your job right. RE­BOUND: You’ve bat­tled in­juries for ma­jor­ity of your UAAP ca­reer. How frus­trat­ing was it for you not to be able to play at 100% all the time? Si­mon: Ev­ery year, meron akong isang ma­jor in­jury na nag-bo-bother na sa akin buong sea­son or some­times took me out of (the sea­son com­pletely). But, last year was a good year for me. I sus­tained an in­jury but not that bad. I played re­ally well last year be­cause I was just en­joy­ing the game. I just did what Coach Dindo told me. Sin­abi niya, “Just do your thing and for­get about all the other stuff. Gawin mo lang‘yung kaya mo.” When I was hurt, I was al­ways in the back­ground. I kept re­mind­ing my team­mates to push them­selves. I hope they learned a lot from last year. We have to start strong and end strong this sea­son. RE­BOUND: One of the ad­just­ments you had to make last sea­son was to switch your po­si­tion from point guard to shoot­ing guard. How did you make that change? Si­mon: Yeah, I know. I’ve been play­ing point guard all my life! In high school, I was an all-around player. I was play­ing the point but I had the go sig­nal to shoot. In my rookie year here, my role was just to play the point. I be­came hes­i­tant to shoot. I’m used to set­ting up the plays and con­trol­ling the tempo of the game but shoot­ing sud­denly be­came some­thing new for me. When Coach Dindo switched me to the shoot­ing guard po­si­tion, (that) means you need to shoot diba? So, I worked on it and there was no hes­i­ta­tion any­more. If I’m free, I’ll take it. That was my prob­lem the first three sea­sons. I al­ways hes­i­tated when I shot the ball. Now, there’s no hes­i­ta­tion. When I’m open, I take it. RE­BOUND: It’s your fi­nal year of el­i­gi­bil­ity in the UAAP. How are you pre­par­ing for it? Si­mon: I need to be in the best shape of my life. I can’t af­ford to have any in­juries any­more. I need to be care­ful some­times. Of course, my shoot­ing has to be im­proved fur­ther. I have to prac­tice ex­tra for that. I have to re­mind my team­mates as well that bas­ket­ball is just a game. You need to en­joy it. I want to lead this team. By lead­ing this team, I put my heart out there on the court. You know, when I do that, I hope na sumama sila sa akin. RE­BOUND: You’ve played in a lot of Ate­neo-La Salle games

through­out your ca­reer. What’s the ex­pe­ri­ence like? Si­mon: Well, you get used to it af­ter a while. When you’re a rookie, you get re­ally ex­cited. And then of course, there’s a say­ing na, “ Mat­alo na sa la­hat,‘wag lang sa Ate­neo.” For me, wala na‘yung mat­alo na sa la­hat eh. I hate los­ing. I treat ev­ery game as an Ate­neo-La Salle (game). There are some play­ers who play bet­ter against Ate­neo but it’s im­por­tant to re­al­ize that we have to give our best in ev­ery game. Ev­ery game has to be treated as a big game. RE­BOUND: How do you see your team stack­ing up against the rest of the competition in the UAAP this year? Si­mon: La­hat ng team ngayon, malakas eh. But, I’ve heard some peo­ple say that we may have got­ten taller but we’re still un­der­dogs. To me, it’s bet­ter to just shut up, play the game and see what hap­pens. RE­BOUND: You’re the last re­main­ing mem­ber of that 2007 cham­pi­onship team in this cur­rent lineup. What do you want to leave this team with be­fore your fin­ish your UAAP ca­reer? Si­mon: I want to share that ex­pe­ri­ence of win­ning a cham­pi­onship with them also. I’m re­ally dy­ing to win an­other cham­pi­onship. I will do ev­ery­thing ta­laga just to win that cham­pi­onship. I want my team­mates to ex­pe­ri­ence what I ex­pe­ri­enced as a rookie. It was an amaz­ing feel­ing. Hope­fully, we get it so that in the years that fol­low, they will con­tinue to fight for that feel­ing. But, in or­der to do that, we all have to work hard, bleed for it, stick to the sys­tem and play La Salle bas­ket­ball.

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