06 September 2015

Rookie Watch: Chris Newsome

Chris Newsome
For several years now, Chris Newsome witnessed how the Meralco Bolts have struggled to nail that first Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) title since joining the league in 2010.

After spending most of his college basketball at the Ateneo de Manila University and facing the initial controversy when he joined the Hapee Fresh Fighters in the PBA-Development League, Newsome has finally realized his dream of playing in the PBA with the Bolts.

Meralco selected Newsome as their No. 4 pick in the first round and hoped that the hard-working forward can help them to the promise land.

Newsome is not new to this kind of pressure. He spent his first two years with Ateneo at the bench, serving his mandatory residency. During those times, he worked on his game and, when he finally got the call to play, he either bullied his way in front of the rim or soared over it for a photogenic slam.

It seems those daily practices have paid off. He was the best player in Ateneo’s rickety roster. He averaged a team-high 14.3 points on top of 8.2 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game in a Swiss Army knife-role. He scores, rebounds, defends, brings down the ball, hustles, and everything else in between during UAAP’s Season 76. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he cleans the Moro Lorenzo Gym after every practice as well.

"I pride myself in taking any role in the team. That's my game," said Newsome. "I'm never satisfied. I always feel that I can do more."

"Any coach would notice right away how athletically gifted Chris is. He runs faster and jumps higher than any other player his size and age," said his former head coach Bo Perasol.

Contrary to what most opposing fans believe, Newsome is not an import. He is half-Filipino. He was born in San Jose, California in 1990 but his mother, whose family moved to the United States when she was seven, hails from ParaƱaque.

The 6-foot-2 wingman starred for Rio Rancho High School before playing college ball at New Mexico Highlands University (NMHU), an NCAA Division II school. It’s not exactly known for its athletics. Its most well-known product is the late wrestler Eddie Guerrero. But during Newsome’s freshman year in 2008, he was part of the Cowboys team that recorded the biggest win turnaround in NCAA history — in all divisions. They went from 1-28 to 20-8 and won the West Division of their conference.

He suited up for NMHU for three years, averaging 10.1 PPG, 4.2 RPG, and 2.8 APG in his final season in 2010 before packing his bags to the Philippines.

“Basketball in the States is more above the rim. The players are more athletic. That’s why I like to jump high, run, (make) power moves, that’s the style I’m used to,” said Newsome, who first dunked in second year high school. “Here, it’s more grounded, but the players are really quick.”

He wouldn’t be playing here if not for his college coach, Joe Harge. After finding out that Newsome had Filipino blood, he sent several tapes to his contacts in the Philippines. Some camps were easily impressed. They even thought he could jump straight to the PBA. He attended several practices at UP and was also part of the pool for the Sinag Pilipinas Team that captured the gold in the 2011 Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia.

Eventually, he landed in Ateneo. Then-head coach and now Bolts mentor Norman Black convinced him to continue his studies and sit out two years to be able to play in the UAAP.

"I love the game. It’s a fun game. Soccer was fun, but there are too many people on one team. The same goes with American football. You can make an impact, but with everyone else, it’s hard to make an individual impact. In basketball, you really get the chance to make that individual impact and you really get to work together as a team. It’s really just that aspect of the game that I really liked," said the 6-foot-2 Newsome.

(Photo credits to http://rivals.ph)

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