The former point guard for the West Orange Warriors had no offers out of high school, but recently signed to play for Cincinnati Christian.
When Cristian Colon was a sixth-grader at Lakeview Middle School in Winter Garden, he was cut from the basketball team.
He’ll admit he went home from the school that day and cried, but he also went to work at becoming better. It paid off — Colon not only made the team the following year at Lakeview, but he also played at the varsity level for West Orange High.
It is with that same spirit that Colon has approached his career after graduating from West Orange. With no scholarship offers coming out of high school, Colon — who graduated in 2015 — went to work again, playing for Roderick Davenport’s Dream Chasers travel team, a squad comprising other unsigned recent graduates.
All the while, Colon was using the doubt of college recruiters as motivation.
“When they were telling me that (I wasn’t good enough), in front of my face, I took it (personally) and got back to the court,” Colon said. “I work every day and every night.”
The hard work has paid off for Colon, who signed a letter of intent with Cincinnati Christian University — but the journey has not always been easy.
Colon’s first stop, in the fall of 2015, was Salem International. A Division II program in West Virginia, the fit was not there for Colon, who returned home after a semester and got back to work. Again hearing that programs were not interested, he would work out two — and sometimes three — times per day at either the West Orange High gym or the Roper YMCA.
Throughout the process, Warriors coach Eric Jones — a coach who has a knack for helping his players and alumni with finding their next home — was supportive and making calls.
“(Jones has) been as helpful as anyone can be, really — if not more,” Colon said. “He lives, eats and breathes basketball. He just does whatever he can to provide for his alumni — he’s always open to them.”
When Colon learned of an open workout for Wake Tech in North Carolina, a junior college program, he hopped on a plane. Not only did he make the roster, but also within a few weeks, he was the team’s starting point guard for the 2016-17 season, averaging 10 points and five assists per game.
That success has opened this latest door in Cincinnati.
“When they were telling me that (I wasn’t good enough), in front of my face, I took it (personally) and got back to the court. I work every day and every night.”
— Cristian Colon
Colon said he is fueled not only by the idea of proving others wrong but also by a genuine love for the game. An undersized guard, he nevertheless has dreams of playing professionally after his three remaining years of college eligibility.
Doubt him if you would like, but Colon already has demonstrated an important quality of someone who wants to make it: his willingness to go wherever opportunity lies. The world is full of professional leagues in countries from Spain to Israel to China to Brazil for athletes who are willing to chase the dream, but the lifestyle can be a tough ask.
As for Colon, considering where he’s been spending his mornings and afternoons of late — at the West Orange High gym, getting up shots — perhaps a professional career for a high-school player who graduated without an offer isn’t that far-fetched, after all.