Before Darion Atkins was apart of a defensive minded front court in Westchester, he spent his collegiate years at the University of Virginia. During his four years at Virginia, Atkins' offensive game improved each year. His most notable attribute was his defensive ability. In his senior season, the Clinton native captured the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) Defensive Player of the Year Award and was named to the All-Defensive team. In addition, he was awarded the Lefty Driesell Defensive Player of the Year Award, which is given to Division I's top defensive player.
While the forward went undrafted in the 2015 NBA Draft, he joined the San Antonio Spurs in the Summer League. Not long after, the former Virgina product joined the New York Knicks for the preseason. While his stint with the Knicks was short, there were a few things the 6'8″ forward took from those two stints.
"Taken from what I've learned from the Spurs and the Knicks is the terminology and the physicality," Atkins told RidiculousUpside.com. "And just being in those situations you get a sense of maturity and confidence just comes from it because being around those guys who are NBA vets or superstars and stuff like that just helps your game mentally."
Dating back to his days at Virginia, Atkins was known for his defensive presence. While his defensive skills was always there, his offensive ability was not up to par. During his collegiate years, the Clinton native saw his workload increase, but only averaged seven or more points (7.6) for a season during his senior year. In his first season in Westchester, Darion Atkins has shown improvement on the offensive side of the ball. "Everyone knows that I can play defense; thats an obvious strength of mine," Atkins said. "I've been working on my shot, I've been working on my corner three, and I'm working on my face-up game being to consistently lock up the jump shots (18 feet). And I think its coming along nicely." Atkins has posted eight double-doubles this season, which includes a streak of three consecutive double-doubles he had against the Erie BayHawks and Delaware 87ers.
Not only are the Westchester Knicks benefiting by having a defensive player like Atkins, but the team has an advantage by having two defensive minded players in their front court. "I think that goes a long way because when you have that part down, the offense comes," Atkins said. "I think teams who are more defensive minded to begin with have an easier chance to be able to be more successful and win games cause defense wins games to be honest, not necessarily offense."
Throughout the season, Atkins has shown the consistency to improve. He started off the season by coming off the bench and now he is a contributor to the Knicks, who are sitting atop of the D-League Atlantic Division. Atkins kept his confidence rolling into the D-League Showcase, as he averaged 12.0 points, 6.0 assists, 9.5 rebounds, and 4.0 blocks per game in the Showcase.
While he has added more to his defensive skill set, the former Virginia product has improved more on his offense. Along with the strides the Knicks' forward has made, he has found himself on the Prospect Watch twice this season, which is showing the overall improvement he has made in his rookie season in the D-League. As he continues to develop his game, Atkins will start to see his stock rise.