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Philippines Beckons Ex-Ram

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Chris Newsome has chance to play on best college, national teams

New-New is leaving NMHU for the land of Fil-Ams.

On Friday, former Rio Rancho High and New Mexico Highlands guard Chris Newsome boarded a plane for the Philippines, where he plans to spend the next three years in school and playing basketball.

“They’re not usually known for basketball, but they have passion for basketball,” Newsome said. “I went out there last summer, and some of the players knew more about the NBA than I did.”

The 20-year-old, who recently completed his junior season with Highlands, plans to play two more years of college basketball at Ataneo de Manila University, but he won’t be eligible there until the late summer/early fall of 2012.

In the meantime, Newsome is expected to play for the Philippines’ national team, which in November is defending its title at the Southeast Asian Games in Indonesia.

Newsome’s father, Eric, is African American. His mother, Carmelita, is Filipino. She came to the United States when she was 7.

The national coach, Norman Black, is also the head coach at Ataneo.

“He saved me a spot on both teams,” said Newsome, a 2008 Rio Rancho graduate. “That means a lot to me. Being raised half Filipino, half African American, my Filipino side has been my second country. I’m very proud of our heritage, and for me to represent that culture means a lot for me and my family.”

The high-flying 6-foot-2 guard averaged 10.1 points and 4.2 rebounds last season in Las Vegas, N.M.

He is expected to begin practicing immediately with the Philippines national team. In the Philippines, players of mixed races are affectionately called Fil-Ams.

“I can say he’s good, he really can jump and he’s very athletic,” Black told The Philippine Star Sports earlier this year.

The opportunity to play in Asia, Newsome said, has been there since he arrived at Highlands.

NMHU coach Joe Harge had done some work in the Philippines and had connections there. Come to Highlands until it’s the right time to leave, Harge told Newsome.

Now is right time, Newsome said, adding that Ataneo is like the North Carolina of colleges in the Philippines.

And he said fans there are just crazy for basketball.

“Let’s just say, when I went out there, it was enough to give me chills,” Newsome said. “I’ve been in the Pit for state championship games, Lobo games, stuff like that, but this definitely topped that by three or four times. And this was just a college game.”

The transition to the other side of the world won’t be as difficult for Newsome as it might be for most foreigners.

He still has family in the Manila area, many Filipinos speak very good English, and his coach is American. Plus, Ataneo has a couple of other Fil-Ams, Newsome added. Ataneo just won its third consecutive national championship, Newsome said.

He must have one year of residency before he can be eligible for college. That gives him a few months to work with the national team, which is actually coming back to the States (Las Vegas, Nev., and San Francisco) next month for some training and scrimmages.

Eventually, Newsome said, his ambition trends toward music and not basketball.

“That’s one thing a lot of people don’t know about me, that I can play the piano, the drums, and I like to make my own stuff, write my own songs,” Newsome said. “I never really put it out there for people to know, but it’s always been a passion.”

Eventually, he said, he wants to open up his own studio and sign artists.

But that won’t be his primary focus once he finishes his 15-hour flight from Albuquerque to Manila, via Honolulu.

“I’m definitely excited to leave and start fresh and actually excel in basketball,” he said. “It’s something I’ve always dreamed of doing.”

— This article appeared on page B1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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