Simon Atkins – Out of the Shadows

In my three years of covering the UAAP, this is the first time that I saw Simon Atkins being interviewed by the press inside the press room after a La Salle win. It has always been JV Casio or Rico Maierhoffer. Occasionally, there is James Mangahas, PJ Barua and even Maui Villanueva and Kish Co. But not Simon Atkins. It is not that Simon did not have brilliant performances in the past but it is just that he has always been overshadowed by his more stellar teammates.

But this time, it is different. The four-year veteran Green Archer certainly made his mark in the opening game. He impressed upon the people what he can bring to the team. And boy, did he bring it! In the UP-DLSU game— 20 points,  4 of 9 from the three point line,  2 assists and 3 steals. It is definitely Simon’s time to shine.

Under the system of then coach Franz Pumaren, Simon had to play a pivotal supporting role as the backup and later on starting point guard. In so doing, he operated under the radar. Nobody paid much attention to this former La Salle Zobel Junior Archer. The more critical ones would dismiss him simply as another bratty La Sallian thinking he could play basketball.

Simon was aware of this. But far from being disheartened, Simon responded to the challenge. He made use of what people thought of him and worked on it.

“Over the past year, I noticed that the defense on me was sagging. They were letting me shoot. It looks like they don’t respect my shooting,” remarked the 21 year old Psychology major. “Before, I was always hesitating to shoot. But during the offseason I worked on my shooting. I hope they respect me now,” Atkins added after that spectacular UP-La Salle game.

Now on his penultimate UAAP year, Simon had a roller-coaster UAAP ride. He was a rookie when DLSU grabbed its memorable “redemption” championship in 2007. The following year, after TY Tang left, Simon would have played a more crucial role in the rotation if not for that scary and dangerous fall in the opening quarter of the UE-La Salle game in August 2008, which sidelined him for most of the season. And last year…well… is forgettable, even for Simon.

“I don’t remember the last season. I moved on. It’s a new year, a new season. We need to get back on track, because last year was not good,” he pointed out.

As the most senior member of the team, it comes not as a surprise that Simon was tapped to be team captain. But more than seniority, the attitude Simon displays is enough for him to earn that prime and important spot in the team.

“My mentality is I want my teammates to look good, not only me,” he quipped.

His leadership style is exemplified by his adherence to the game plan. He believes in Coach Dindo and will respond to what Coach Dindo asks of him. In the UP game, Simon was assigned the daunting task of guarding the taller and equally quick Mike Silungan. He admitted having a hard time defending the UP long distance specialist, but still he persevered and delivered.

“Coach Dindo trusted me. I don’t want to let him down,” Atkins said.

Simon certainly did not let Coach Dindo down. In fact, he didn’t let the whole La Sallian community down, as shown in the applause he gets every time he is taken out of the playing court.

So is Simon ready to take on the cudgels to lead this young but promising Green Archer team?

Let’s see our checklist…as developed by generations of Green Archers who had brought honor to the Green and White Team.

Determination – Check

Focus – Check

Drive – Check

Responsiveness to Challenge – Check

Championship Experience – Check

No doubt he is.

Last May, fans of the hit show, “American Idol” bid goodbye to their Simon. But for La Salle, they welcome their own Simon…their new King Archer.