Jul. 8—After four seasons playing basketball at Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, Chatsworth native and former Christian Heritage School star Christian Koneman views his upcoming redshirt senior season as his time to show what he can do.
After his 2018 graduation from Christian Heritage, Koneman spent those four seasons at the school, the NCAA Division II program often called Georgia College, gradually growing his skills, his body and his role.
The 6-foot-8-inch Koneman averaged under a point per game in his freshman season in 2018-19, but the forward, who has put on more than 30 pounds since then to bulk up to 230, averaged 8.4 points per game in 2021-22, good for third on a team that finished 21-8 and reached the NCAA Division II tournament.
"It was a wake-up call my freshman year. I wasn't sure exactly how good the competition would be, but it turns out people can hoop at any level," Koneman said. "I feel like I'm a completely different player now."
The Bobcats lost their top two scorers from last season — Wesley Simpson and Jordan Thomas — to either graduation or transfer, leaving Koneman primed for a yet bigger role in his final year of eligibility.
"That's a lot more shots that will be opening up for me and for some others on our team," Koneman said.
Koneman said his game has grown more since his days leading Christian Heritage to region championships and state tournament appearance than just adding muscle to compete with larger collegiate players.
He has added more shooting to his slashing and post-up game since leaving Christian Heritage. Koneman led the Bobcats with a 37.4% shooting clip from behind the 3-point line last season.
"I could shoot a little bit in high school, but I've developed my shot a lot in the last few years," Koneman said. "At my size, having someone that can shoot and drive at my level is sought-after."
Koneman showed that shooting, and growth in skill, in the Bobcats' penultimate game of the 2021-22 season.
In the quarterfinal round of the Peach Belt Conference tournament in March, Koneman poured in a collegiate career-high 33 points, nailing three of his four 3-point attempts and 12-of-15 from the free throw line.
Koneman said he hopes the increased role he plays in his junior season can help land him a contract to play basketball professionally after he leaves college.
"I think it's a good opportunity for me too, because I want to play overseas for a few years, so teams will be able to see kind of how I lead a team," Koneman said. "I've always wanted to travel. Going to see a completely new culture is interesting. But I've been playing basketball since I was 4 years old, and I guess I'm not completely ready to hang it up yet. I want to keep playing for as long as I can."
However long that journey to play professional basketball in another country lasts, Koneman wants to bank some money so he can return home and pursue a master's degree in logistics. Koneman is studying marketing at Georgia College.
Koneman was instrumental in the building of the Christian Heritage basketball program during his time in high school.
Christian Heritage moved up to competing in Georgia High School Association basketball in 2012, but struggled at that level for a few years. The Lions reached the GHSA state tournament for the first time in Koneman's sophomore season in 2015-16, and the Lions, coached by Tyler Watkins, have been in the playoffs every year since.
Koneman's younger brother, Braden, is a rising senior for the Lions who helped Christian Heritage to match its deepest playoff run with a semifinal appearance in 2021.
"It was a lot of fun being able to help turn the program around," Koneman said. "I'm definitely glad that they were able to keep it going after I left. I'll see on Twitter them competing with a bunch of 6A and 7A teams, and that's something that would not have happened before I got there. I'm proud that they've kept it going."