While plenty of Filipinos seek better lives outside the country, Tony Koyfman is the opposite – a foreigner who found new life in the Philippines.
The American sought an education when he first arrived in the country. He enrolled at the Ateneo De Manila University.
He walked in for the Blue Eagles and proved to be the difference in UAAP Season 79. Koyfman manned the right pin and added to a stacked lineup that included eventual five-time MVP Marck Espejo; eventual five-time Best Setter Ish Polvorosa; and middle blockers Rex Intal and Josh Villanueva.
Ateneo went on to sweep the entire tournament for their third straight title.
Health complications then kept Koyfman from suiting up in Season 80. He was sorely missed, as the Blue Eagles fell short of a fourth consecutive title.
Koyfman returned to a completely different Ateneo lineup in Season 81. Espejo and Polvorosa had graduated, while coach Oliver Almadro moved to the Lady Eagles.
The 6-foot-8 Koyfman became Ateneo’s biggest scoring threat, norming 15 points per match while cracking the top 10 in attack efficiency at a 37.08-percent clip.
Ateneo had several close calls through the elimination round, starting the season with a 1-3 record. Still, they ended up with a 10-4 record, good for the third seed.
Against a hungry, twice-to-beat FEU Tamaraws squad in the Final Four, Koyfman poured in a game-high 21 points. Ultimately, Ateneo made too many errors, ending their season and Koyfman’s two campaigns as a Blue Eagle.
Despite the missed opportunities in Season 80 and 81, Koyfman does not regret how his UAAP career panned out.
“I’m definitely thankful to be back here again, playing with my teammates, especially with the seniors here. It’s definitely something that I’m really grateful to be back for,” said Koyfman.
He was glad for a chance to redeem himself. Despite not making the Finals, Koyfman was still thankful he got to play with his fellow seniors Janjan Rivera, Manuel Sumanguid, and Jasper Tan.
“This season was definitely everything for me, because I still felt that I had something to prove. And along the way I couldn’t have done it without the best libero (Sumanguid) here, the greatest open hitter (Rivera) here. And even though he (Tan) may not be on the court always, but off the court, he’s always the one who’s pushing me to go beyond the extra mile,” he expressed.
“Sobrang, sobrang grateful that we’re here, and we still managed to prove people wrong.”