Koko Archibong is a West Coast guy, and he won't let you forget it. The Penn men's basketball media guide has a section in which each player has filled out a questionnaire. In response to "The most important thing I bring to this team is -," most of the guys wrote "leadership" or "experience," but not Koko. Nope, according to the media guide, Archibong -ÿa 6'8" sophomore forward out of Pasadena (Calif.) Polytechnic - brings "West Coast flavor." "Absolutely, I would totally agree with that," laughs senior center Geoff Owens, who has played with Archibong for almost two full seasons. "I'll be talking to him and I'm not sure about a word that he's using or whatever, and he'll be like, `It's a West Coast thing.'" "A little bit of my lingo is different," Archibong agrees. "I talk differently." More than just lingo, Archibong's West Coast roots also manifest themselves in the music he listens to. "You won't find too many people out here listening to the music I listen to," Archibong says, citing artists like DJ Quik, Xzibit and E-40. "I listen to both [coasts], though. I just try to bring some elements of education in on that stuff, besides just Jay-Z." "He definitely does," Owens said. "He'll be like, `There's this and this rapper, you guys gotta learn this, it's a West Coast thing.'" But when asked to define "West Coast flavor," Archibong is reluctant to nail it down. "You can't bottle it up," he says. "West Coast is a major, major force, so you can't bottle that up to just me. I do try to bring as much of it as I can, though." One aspect of Pasadena that Archibong would like to bottle up is the weather. "Out in California, I'd get mad when there was a rainy day," he says. "It took me a while to get used to the fact that there are actual seasons out here." But dead-of-winter trips up to New England have made him appreciate Philadelphia's relatively mild Northeastern weather. "All those trips tend to be a lot colder than down here," he says. "This year, I feel much more acclimated to things [in Philly], the extremes in weather and what not." As one of the six members of head coach Fran Dunphy's stellar freshman class last year, Archibong started in 12 of the Quakers 27 games, earning more playing time as the season progressed. Starting at small forward all this season, his numbers have only gotten better. Archibong's long-range shooting has improved significantly. He's hitting at a 37 percent clip from beyond the arc, good enough for 11th in the Ivy League and third on the Quakers. In fact, he is third on the team in most statistical categories, including points and rebounds-per-game, as he averages 10.3 and 4.6, respectively. Archibong has led the Quakers in scoring on two separate occasions this year, including the game at Florida International, where Penn got its first win of the season, and Archibong scored a career-high 23 points. "I think he's improved his game a lot," Owens said. "His jump shot, a great pull-up move to the baseline, there are so many things he's improving on. "I've seen Koko make so many strides as a player and a person in two years." Archibong's success is noteworthy because he wasn't one of those kids that dreamt of basketball stardom. Although he now calls basketball "one of my true loves," he was a grade-school soccer player. And, while he played basketball on the Pasadena playgrounds, an NCAA Division I career seemed pretty far-fetched. "I first played soccer when I was two. I played basketball on a team in the eighth grade, but other than that I was strictly playground," he says. "[Playing collegiately] definitely didn't cross my mind." But in California, the soccer and basketball seasons run concurrently, so Archibong had to choose a sport. The club soccer team he was on "kind of dissolved," so he decided to give organized basketball a try. "I'd only played summer ball, and I couldn't make a left-hand layup, but it was fun, so I decided to do it," Archibong says. "I wasn't even tall. I was 5'10" as a freshman, but I had a growth spurt." More like an explosion. Archibong grew 10 full inches during his high school career and the coach suddenly had a star on his hands. His senior year, the forward averaged a double-double in points and rebounds and led Pasadena Polytechnic to an undefeated season. "I would never have thought that it would turn out this way," Archibong says. For Dunphy, recruiting Archibong was a no-brainer. "We saw him over that summer, and what's not to like?" Dunphy said. "He's tall, he's long, he's athletic. He can shoot well enough and he could get in, which is always a big concern." Archibong knew that he wanted to go to an Ivy League school from the very start of the recruiting process. Accordingly, he did his homework. "As much as anybody we've recruited in recent years, he has known as much about [Penn] as anyone," Dunphy said. "I did a lot of research on the schools that were recruiting me," Archibong says. "[Penn] offered me the best of both worlds, as far as basketball and schoolwork." Now Archibong - who doesn't have a major yet, but knows that it will be "science-oriented" - is instrumental in helping Dunphy entice other players to Penn. "He's good at the recruiting process," Dunphy said. "I have no problem leaving recruits with him and knowing that he'll take care of them." For Archibong, hosting recruits is as much a part of improving the team as working on his own game. "I believe that [recruiting] is a very major part of what we do here," he says. "You want to make sure that we get the best players around." It doesn't stop there, though. One of his roommates is freshman guard Charlie Copp, who first met Archibong on a recruiting trip last year. The sophomore seems to have taken Copp under his wing. "We get along great," Copp said. "He's shown me a lot of things, and given me a lot of good advice about the troubles that you go through as a freshman. "He's always laughing and joking around. He's just a happy kid. He has fun, whatever he's doing."Comments powered by Disqus
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