Hometown: Bethesda, MD
School: Landon School
ESPN: 91; three stars; #38 PF
Rivals: three stars
Scout: two stars
Other offers: Notre Dame, Maryland, Temple, Seton Hall, DePaul, George Washington, Richmond
Darion Atkins set us up a classic, old-fashioned recruiting tug-of-war by declaring two favorites, visiting them, and then clamming up good until his preannounced decision day. Nobody could get a word out of him til Friday, and according to him he hadn't even made up his mind until Thursday night.
Despite his rail-thin 210-pound body, Atkins is described by multiple evaluators as a true power forward, so the first order of business jumps right at you: Bulk up. 10 pounds is doable over a year, which would put him in the Akil Mitchell/Will Sherrill range. Mitchell and Sherrill are 4's with 3-ish tendencies, so ten pounds is a start but it's not quite true-4 territory. Mike Scott checks in at over 240. All this suggests that the word "upside" is one that fits Atkins nicely; "upside" being a scout's way of saying that he needs a year or two in the program to really be a full contributor.
Scouting reports suggest that defense and rebounding is where Atkins makes his name:
Atkins put together a strong showing for Team Takeover finishing with seven points and 10 rebounds. He was active on both ends, spent a considerable amount of time on the glass and he ran the floor well.....
Several other Team Takeover players get the hype, but it was Atkins that got things done. The 6-foot-8 power forward has always had length and athleticism to spare, and he used those physical tools well in an impressive performance. With Takeover losing, Atkins came in the game and changed things around. He ran the floor, blocked shots, and finished above the rim with dunks. His play got things turned around, and eventually Takeover came back to get a key win, and Atkins was probably their best player.
His coach says much the same thing about defense. So does ESPN:
Defensively he blocks and changes shots from anywhere in the paint. Darion's a very active body and he really understands team defense, i.e. rotations and weakside help. He is also a very good rebounder on both ends. He has the athleticism to guard both forward positions.
That bit about understanding team defense is probably what got Tony Bennett so involved; the pack-line absolutely demands an understanding of how what you're doing fits into the overall scheme. But scouting reports can be even more enlightening for what they don't say: a player's strengths may or may not translate to the college game, but his weaknesses definitely will. Atkins doesn't sound like a guy who'll contribute much more than 5-7 points a game, but if he's as defensively sound and as good a rebounder as all that, he'll be just as important. If not more so.
The thing about the other guys in the fold already for 2011 is that there are players with similar skills already on the roster, so they'll have to compete for PT. But Sherrill and Scott graduate this year, leaving Assane Sene and an assortment of this year's freshmen (Will Regan and James Johnson, as well as Mitchell) as the only big guys on the team. So while Atkins is probably the 2011 class member most in need of a little extra time to develop, he's also the least likely to get it. It's an everlasting big-man conundrum. Fortunately, even if he's shoved into the rotation as a freshman, he won't be needed for offense. "Go get the ball" is a simple task and better-suited to a freshman than being relied on for points. If Atkins' "understanding of team defense" is as good as touted, redshirting will be out of the question.
As for recruiting, that about wraps up the 2011 class. There's room for one more - only 12 schollies in use right now, which is one shy of the limit, and right now, after this year, we have three out, and three in. But Bennett's no dummy - using that scholarship puts 10 of 13 players in two classes, and there aren't any other big-time guys out there to chase. Basketball recruiting focus from here on out will be on 2012 and beyond.