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