March 6, 2014
By Emilee Fannon, NIU Media Relations Student Assistant
Five years ago, Antone Christian joined the Huskie men’s basketball squad as a recruited walk-on. He would last just one season as a walk-on, however, proving himself and his versatility during that redshirt season to earn a scholarship for the next four years.
Christian explains that when former NIU head coach Ricardo Patton first saw him play in his hometown of Nashville, Tenn., he described Christian as a “diamond in the rough,” and gave him the opportunity to walk-on at NIU.
“Ever since coach gave me a chance, from that point forward, I have never stopped working hard to show my abilities and how well I can contribute to this team,” said Christian.
Christian was beyond thrilled to get the opportunity to come to NIU. He even remembers what he ate during his first visit.
“I went to The Junction with some other recruits and the coaching staff; I ordered pork chops and hash browns … so good.”
As a redshirt freshman in 2010-11, Christian appeared in 25 games, including five starts, and netted a career-high 17 points on the road at Ohio (Feb. 2, 2011). He averaged 6.2 points per game and would be NIU’s top returnee in the backcourt as a sophomore in 2011-12, when he appeared in all 31 games, including 11 starts.
Last season, Christian played in 23 games, making five more starts, and finished second on the team in three point field goal percentage.
Now in his senior year, Christian appeared ready to make his final season as a Huskie his best yet, but injuries slowed him during the preseason and he played in just six games before a knee injury forced him to the sidelines in mid-December. Christian saw his first time since the injury on Tuesday night in NIU’s defeat at Western Michigan.
Fighting through an injury is never easy, but Christian took that chance to use it as a learning experience.
“I’ve been the biggest cheerleader for my team,” Christian said. “I realized that, sometimes in life, things don’t always go your way. Life is about adaptation and whenever one door closes another door opens.”
His positive attitude on life and the love for basketball was taught to him at a very young age. Christian says his biggest role model growing up was his father, Anthony.
“My dad showed me everything from basketball to self-control. Without him I wouldn’t know the greats like Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson,” Christian shared. “He took me all over the states to play with my cousins, and those experiences taught me so much early on in life that I still hold with me today.”
Growing up in Nashville, Christian has always been close with his family. Every Sunday after church, they would all go to the bowling alley.
“It was a fun little tradition we had, but at times it could get pretty competitive,” said Christian. “I would get sick of my cousins beating me all the time, so I eventually went out at got my own bowling ball to practice.”
That kind of devotion and determination described Christian’s mentality towards any task in life and someday he would like to coach basketball at the college level. Christian said he has enjoyed helping out the younger guys on the team during his injury.
“You take the opportunity to grow as a man and a mentor,” Christian said. “I know I want to coach someday so why not start now … it’s a huge learning experience.”
NIU head coach Mark Montgomery has said Christian as a natural-born leader.
“I tell him, when his career is over, he’s going to be a coach,” said Montgomery. “He doesn’t mind hearing his voice. He doesn’t mind telling guys to go harder.”
Christian’s most memorable time as a Huskie was playing against Eastern Michigan in the First Round of the MAC Tournament in 2012, with the winner advancing to Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Eastern Michigan came into the game as the No. 5 seed, while NIU was seeded 12th. The game came down to the wire with the Huskies finishing on top beating the Eagles, 55-52.
“For us as underdogs it felt so good … it was huge accomplishment for us,” Christian recalled.
With his senior season close to coming to an end, Christian plans ahead for life after graduation. A pre-physical therapy major, Christian would like start out at a good paying job while saving his money and eventually taking the GRE to attend grad school.
The number one thing Christian says he will miss the most about basketball is the brotherhood he shares with his teammates.
“A lot of people don’t have this opportunity to be a Division I athlete -- it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity that comes with amazing friendships and a family that I will never forget.”