A lot has changed since Christian Heritage School senior Christian Koneman picked up a basketball for the first time when he was 3-years-old and much shorter than his current 6-foot-7 frame.

As a kid he hated being in the post and would much rather be outside chucking up 3s than sitting on the block awaiting a contested layup or dunk.

Much like he did to his own game, Koneman -- along with fellow seniors Same Dindoffer, Kamron Edwards and Spencer Page -- changed the culture of Christian Heritage basketball from an afterthought to an Elite-Eight-caliber program in just four years by adopting the "Hard-hat life" of toughness, selflessness and hard work.

"There's definitely been some ups and downs," Koneman said. "Coach Watkins had a vision for us. He told us it takes four years to build a program and that the seniors my freshman year were just the foundation and to keep building upon that. We changed the culture."

Koneman averaged 18 points and 9.5 rebounds per game en route a region 6-A championship and a state quarterfinal spot, and being named the 2018 Daily Citizen-News All-Area Boys Basketball Player of the Year

Koneman put the program on his shoulders at times. He lead the charge in big games like the Lions' four-overtime victory over North Cobb Christian where he scored 38 points with 22 rebounds.

With flashy dunks and slick passes, he has become one of the more dominant post players in northwest Georgia, something he didn't have much desire to be as a kid.

"I hated posting up growing up," Koneman said. "My dad would go outside and teach me post moves and I'd be like, 'God, I'm never gonna use these ever.' It turns out I did because I'm 6-foot-7 and no one else is here. But I hated it."

Koneman and his father, Carl, an assistant coach for the Murray County High School boys basketball team, have always shared a tight bond over basketball. Watching games in the living room or shooting on a hoop they had out in the driveway, it was something that pulled them together, even if they sometimes bickered about it.

Carl was Christian's coach in rec league and travel ball when he was young and, as most coaches do, corrected Koneman on his shortcomings. Not much has changed as Carl continued to toss out pointers during timeouts at Lions home games.

"It's been a blessing that he has a passion for the same sport that I have a passion for," Carl said. "Early on, I always saw a lot of potential in Christian and we actually clashed quite a bit during the competition of the game. But basketball has been good for us, it's been a joy to watch him play."

Derived from a basektball family, the love of the sport was instilled early on. Carl played at Savannah Technical College, leading the state in 3-point percentage one year, and his grandfather on his mother's side was part of Murray County state championship team in the 1960s.

"I kinda had to play," Koneman said. "My dad would always go shoot with me at Murray County High School since he coached there. We had a hoop outside that we'd always shoot at. There's just something about it. Sinking a 3 or dunking the ball, the feeling you get afterward is just amazing."

Gradually as he got older and entered high school, the need for developing a post presence became more apparent. He had already laid the groundwork for his shooting and ball handling, but it was time for his size to become an asset.

Though his ability to play as a lanky point guard at times made him quite difficult to guard.

"We as a staff knew there just wasn't that many centers in the game anymore," Lions coach Tyler Watkins said. "So I always played him out on the perimeter. I knew that was his ticket to college and he had to be able to dribble, he had to be able to pass and he had to be able to shoot the ball. That was what he wanted to do and it's helped him to be very versatile."

The combination of size, agility and sharp shooting that has grown more apparent for big men in today's game has made him an enigma for opposing defenses.

"I thought I was good where I was, didn't really need to get better, so why add post game? But, it really helps a lot with matchups," Koneman said. "Like, are you gonna put a guard on me? If you put a guard on me I'm gonna post up on him, but if you put a post on me, I'm gonna drive right past him."

Once he entered his senior year, one aspect of his game was still left to change: his unselfishness.

He was a good passer and was adept at finding teammates on the perimeter when he drove to the lane. But with his skillset and the mismatch he presented, Watkins began to implore him to add a little selfishness and take over.

"My message to him after his junior was, 'Hey, this is your time now,'" Watkins said. "For us to get to the level that we did, he was gonna have to average 20 and 10. He was capable of doing that, but sometimes he was more comfortable passing the ball. I've always liked how unselfish of a player he was. It was never about him. But we had to turn him up his senior year and get him to take the shot."

When Koneman stepped on the Christian Heritage campus as a freshman, the Lions were coming off a 9-16 season.

Now, he's leaving campus with a region championship banner set to hang and an Elite Eight finish etched in Lions history. With sights set on a state championship, it'd be easy to focus on the last game with the Lions (27-3) walking off defeated far short of their goal and Koneman walking off the court to a standing ovation.

However, Watkins would rather recognize how special of a season and of a player that the Lions had for their historic run: A 1,000 point scorer, a role model for the future Lions, and a Christian Heritage great.

"We wanted him to realize his potential and go out every night and be the best player on the floor and he did that for us this year," Watkins said. "He had an incredible senior year. I know all the kids in Christian Heritage basketball history and he's one of the best to have put on a Lions uniform."

Fun facts:

Model game after: A mix of Kevin Durant and GiannisĀ Antetokounmpo

Go-to food: Zaxby's

Best talent: Fortnite

Bucket list: Win a ring in college

Biggest Fear: Speaking in front of people

Best sports movie: Rocky series

React to this story:

3
0
0
0
0

Trending Video