By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
When Morris Wattley first dragged Kleon Penn on the Greenland basketball after learning about him from Eddie Fahie, the 7-footer remembers all too well he wouldn’t go past the half court line.
In 2019, the 7-footer became the Puerto Rico Basketball Superior League’s All Time Shot Blocker after recording his 645th block, then was named among the top centers of the decade.
“That’s all I used to do, stay at the half court line and play defense,” he said when asked if he saw himself at the level he has gone on to after taking the sport seriously. “After I saw that I had a talent for it in college and being one of the top three in the whole nation in blocks, I thank God that I’ve been had good health and have been able to play as long as I have in Puerto Rico and achieve that (blocks) award.”
Penn didn’t even see himself playing basketball beyond the BVI Basketball Association League when he played with the HLSCC Stingrays.
“Honestly, I was just thinking after high school, just go and start working,” he said. “The whole basketball thing just came out of the blue. It has been an amazing experience. It has taken me through college, places in the world I would never think of going and the one experience in the NBA was the best ever. I’d never forget that.”
Penn said the professionalism, hanging with Kevin Garnett, Karl Anthony Towns-just seeing how they prepare and Garnett being wild, but he was there before everyone and left after everyone.
“It showed me what you have to do to be successful—the kind of mentality,” he said of his stint with the Minnesota Timberwolves. “It shows that you really have to work hard to get anywhere.”
When asked what it’s like playing professionally, Penn said you get paid for doing something you love to do and he’s always being sought after to play and has also played in leagues in Morocco, Venezuela, Mexico, Dominican Republic.
“I’ve been able to meet different groups of people from different backgrounds which is always cool,” he said. “There’s a lot of different people I meet every year. I like traveling, going to different areas and different communities.”
If he wasn’t playing professional basketball what would he be doing?
“Being a 7-foot accountant behind the desk,” he said with a laugh. “A big accountant.”
His advice to youngsters who would like to follow in his footsteps is to work hard.
“Be coachable,” he said. “You can’t come in with the attitude as if you know everything. If you’re not coachable, they won’t keep you around. I got a lot more chances because I’m coachable, nice and easy to get along with. I’ve seen players come in with bad attitudes and in 2-3 days, they’re gone. So you have to be coachable, nice and work at your craft.”
His aim this year is to help his team win a championship and after Puerto Rico, play in other leagues throughout the year.
“I’m getting older so I just want to keep playing basketball as long as I can while I can,” he said.
Much to his surprise, Penn was recently named as one of the Top 5 Best Centers of The Decade in the Puerto Rico Superior Basketball League.
“It’s an honor because in Puerto Rico, you have so many great centers come through and to be listed as one of the Top 5 big men in the league for the decade, was an extreme honor,” he noted. “I saw them doing it for the point guards, forwards and others but I wasn’t thinking about me being included and to see I was there included with them was awesome. There are great names like Peter John Ramos, Danny Santiago and Mike Sweetney who played with the New York Knicks, so it as great to be named with those guys.”