Tuesday, September 21, 2010

the recruit: Darion Atkins

Name: Darion Atkins
Position: PF
Hometown: Bethesda, MD
School: Landon School
Height: 6'8"
Weight: 210

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.


Anonymous said...

What's your opinion on this pick-up? Do you think he was the right guy to fill the last slot in the 2011 class? Are you impressed with how Tony Bennett closed out this class? You did a great job with being impartial with the post, but we're all interested in what YOU think about Atkins.

Anonymous said...

Should we have gone after a guy like Desmund Hubert who could be a better size fit, maybe?

Brendan said...

Well, I'm impressed that Bennett was able to go toe-to-toe with a similar school in Notre Dame - basketball-wise the similarities between UVA and ND are extensive, and Atkins has a couple good buddies on that team - and close the deal.

As for the size thing, it won't matter if Atkins is as good as advertised at team defense, and Bennett must think he is because he went after Atkins hard. When the pack-line is really working, opponents' big men are taken right out of the game. Ed Davis was completely invisible in the game in Chapel Hill last year, and so was Brian Zoubek in the ACCT game against Duke. We lost that one because they started hitting some outside shots. Atkins' size doesn't worry me.

Is Atkins the right guy? Sounds like it. I forgot to mention that I think the Scout evaluation is way old given the much, much smaller size they list for him, and they'll probably boost it before all's said and done. Like I said, I don't think he'll score much, but I love me some rebounding and it wouldn't surprise me to see Atkins make an impression similar to the one Scott made as a freshman. Which to me was that he had a real nose for the ball and always seemed to be there to clean the glass.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the quick reply, Brendan. It is very impressive to see Tony Bennett win a lot of these battles and getting the guys that he does go after especially hard. It seems like all the kids that put Virginia in their top two or three end up heading to Charlottesville. I guess my worry is we're not going to have a true, dominat power forward after Mike Scott graduates and center after Sene leaves in a couple years (so far he has been lackluster at best).

Some other questions: Is there a chance that Bennett may pick up a transfer from another class so we can fully utilize our allotted scholarships? Also, since you mentioned Mike Scott, do you see him being a good senior leader for the first year class coming in? No doubt he'll be one of the most productive members on the team, but do you see him being a strong leader?

Anonymous said...

I know this blog is hard to keep up with in terms of work Brendan, but I know I'd love to see some of the recruiting board and depth charts for basketball. I like the football stuff too, but there's so many more people to keep track of there I forget it before the window is even closed, basketball is much simpler in that respect.

Brendan said...

About Scott, I do think he's good leadership material. Hard worker and a fiery guy on the court. But I think there'll be an equally strong leader or two that emerges from the freshman class. The Daily Progress did that series of stories on them and I think every one of them had a quote on the profiled player that said something like "nobody works harder than he does." Scott looks like an emotional leader, the kind to get his guys fired up on game day, but behind the scenes I think this freshman class will have some surprises.

Transfer? Maybe. I don't think Bennett is actively looking for one, but he's probably got his radar on. If there's a JUCO guy or a transfer that fits exactly what we need - like Justin Hamilton from ISU would have - Bennett will work on it, but only this year and only if he's a perfect fit in all aspects.

As far as some basketball resources, a while ago I actually made the conscious decision not to do a basketball recruiting board. For football recruiting, the free information (other than snippets of scouting reports when I do a profile) suffices to keep the board looking sharp and up-to-date. For basketball, I'd really have to use mostly pay info, because it can change so rapidly and because basketball recruiting is both a lot slimier and a lot less cyclical.

But a depth chart certainly seems doable, and actually I wouldn't mind having one for other sports too, if I can get the presentation right. The trick is that positions are so much more fluid than football. A running back is a running back, but there are so many different flavors of "power forward" for example where technically the guy's a 4 but if he's Akil Mitchell he's more of a 3.5 and if he's Mike Scott he's more like a 4.5. I'll work on it and if I like what I get, I'll publish it, but it won't look quite exactly like the football one does.