Suns News

One-on-One with Koko Archibong

After four years of balancing academics and athletics at Penn, Ivy League forward Koko Archibong is putting basketball first as he tries to earn a spot on the Suns' roster.
(Jeramie McPeek/Suns.com)

Posted: July 21, 2003

If a basketball career doesn’t work out for Koko Archibong, the Penn forward has a pretty good fallback option. The two-time All-Ivy and Academic All-Ivy League selection aspires to someday become a cardiologist. In the meantime, though, the anthropology major has his sights set on making an NBA roster.

The 6-9, 215-pound forward, who played four seasons at Penn, is one step closer to achieving that goal after earning a spot on the Suns’ Summer League roster at the Reebok Rocky Mountain Revue in Salt Lake City.

Prior to wrapping up Rookie/Free-Agent Camp at America West Arena last week, the undrafted free agent, who averaged 14.2 points and 5.7 rebounds, while shooting .510 shooting from the field his junior season, talked about his versatile game, open-heart surgery and his nickname.

Suns.com: This must be exciting for you, attending your first NBA camp?

Archibong: It’s very exciting – all of it. The whole process has been real exciting since the end of the college season (in March). Starting this whole process up has been like one big roller coaster ride.

Suns.com: What was your daily routine like at camp this week? What do you do besides just practice?

Archibong: Outside of practice, you basically eat and just hang out at the hotel with the other guys. You spend a lot of your day (at America West Arena). If you are not playing or on the court, you’re either hanging out in the locker room or getting treatment.

Suns.com: You worked for the Suns on a couple of different occasions before the draft. How did you get that opportunity?

Archibong: That was through my agent and (the Suns) extended an invitation for me to come down and work out. Of course, I was happy to do so. I came down here and had a great time. I learned a lot when I was here. It was just a good experience.

Suns.com: Can you tell us a little bit about your background? We understand that you were an All-Ivy League selection and also made the academic team, too.

Archibong: I always have been really focused in on both schoolwork and athletics since I was in middle school. I did have a goal before college that I wanted to be pre-med. I took my pre-med courses, the required courses to do so while I was there for my undergraduate years, but as time went on I started to pursue basketball a lot more seriously. Right now, I’m just trying to live out my dreams on both ends. I still have my degree, which I’ll always have, but right now I’m focused on this basketball thing and I’m trying to make it work.

Suns.com: How tough was it for you just to balance the two during college?

Archibong: It was difficult, but you have to go in with the mindset that that’s what you want to do. If I was wavering on my decision on what I wanted to do then I think it would have been impossible for me to do personally. But since I knew that was what I was interested in and that was what my goal to do both, I made sure I’d try to give both the attention.

Suns.com: So if basketball does not work out for you do you want to become a cardiologist?

Archibong: Eventually. From talking to doctors and teachers at the medical school at (Penn) they say, although most people have an idea of what they want to get into, when they actually go to their first year of medical school a lot of that changes. I don’t know really what I want to do, but it’s a field I’ve always been keen on and interested in.

Suns.com: What makes you so interested in that field?

Archibong: I was always interested in science. In science class I used to do reports on the heart, what it takes to become a cardiologist and different things like that. From there, I built an interest in that particular field.

Suns.com: Did you work on any school projects on the heart when you were younger?

Archibong: I did a pretty big science report on it where I had to diagram it and put in all the blood vessels, and everything. It was pretty elaborate for that time. I probably did it in sixth or seventh grade. I stayed up all night with my mom working hard on it and I enjoyed it.

Suns.com: We heard that during a recruiting trip to Rice University you actually oversaw an open-heart surgery. What was that like?

Archibong: Yes. I got to do that. It was a great experience. That was the first time I had been in the surgery room. They asked if I wanted to see it and I was like, “Yeah!” I thought I was going to see it from the overhead observatory, but I got to put on scrubs and go in. I was like, “Wow! This is pretty amazing.” I could see myself doing that as well. It was great.

Suns.com: If you continue your education, how many more years are you looking at?

Archibong: Quite a few. Quite a few, but it’s something at this point in time I’ve put on hold to try to focus all my attention to basketball. This is the first time I’ve felt I have been able to focus all my attention on it. I think by doing that I will be successful at some level doing it.

Suns.com: How would you describe your basketball game?

Archibong: I feel like I’m a multi-purpose player. I feel like I’m good at a lot of different things so my versatility is what I try to play to the most. I feel more comfortable on the court when I’m multi-faceted out there on the court, whether I’m posting up on a smaller guy or beating a guy who is slower than me on the perimeter. I feel comfortable doing both. I don’t like to limit myself.

Suns.com: So you would probably fit in as a small forward or power forward?

Archibong: Wherever the need be. I hope I can help out this team or whenever I end up.

Suns.com: What do you know about the Suns? Have you watched this team on TV before?

Archibong: Oh yeah. I’m an avid basketball fan. I’ve watched every team play numerous times. I like the Suns a lot. They’ve been extremely successful as of late. I think that’s a tribute to the great management (the Suns) have and the great coaching staff. I’m getting to know them a lot better over this whole process and it has been great. I’ve learned a great deal about what it takes to play at this level and what types of things I need to work on personally. They’ve been nothing but helpful. I can see why they’ve been so successful with people like that helping you out.

Suns.com: Is this whole process nerve-wracking because there are so many steps to making an NBA roster and knowing it can end at any time?

Archibong: There are a lot of things you can’t control about your destiny and about this whole situation. I try not to think about the things I have no control over. I try to worry about the things I do have control over, such as my effort every day I step onto the court, being as prepared as possible to fill the task at hand. Presenting myself in the best possible light whenever I get a chance is really all I can do. As long as at the end of the day, I can say I put out my best effort, I feel fine with that.

Suns.com: One last question, how did you get the nickname Koko?

Archibong: It means junior in Nigeria so I’m the first-born son in my family. It’s a nickname. My real name (Aniekan Okon Archibong) is a lot harder to say (laughs). I just let people call me Koko.