Atkins credits God, family and her team for accomplishments on and off the court


Junior Ariel Atkins takes the walk up the ladder after the Region I finals to cut her piece of the net with Tasia Foman who has been playing with her since they were 7 years old. (Abigail Padgett photo)

Junior Ariel Atkins takes the walk up the ladder after the Region I finals to cut her piece of the net with Tasia Foman who has been playing with her since they were 7 years old. (Abigail Padgett photo)
Sitting on the bus with her music blasting, clearing her mind of all the previous events that occurred that day, Junior Ariel Atkins is preparing herself to leave everything on the court for yet another game. This is just her normal routine that she has gone through before every basketball game. Stepping on the court, the sound of blasting music is now replaced by endless cheers from the crowd. It’s game time. The buzzer goes off and Atkins teammates say they can see the intensity in her eyes as she steals the ball and makes a fast break to the basket on a layup giving the Pantherettes a quick lead in the game. Atkins only goal at this point is give 120% in hopes of helping her team get another win.

“When you see her on the court she has a special drive in her eyes, she’s not the same person on and off the court.” junior teammate Tasia Foman said. “She just has determination in her eyes all the time.”

Foman, who has been sharing the court with Atkins since she was 7, has witnessed this determination and all of Atkins’ achievements first hand. Being one of the leading guards in the nation today, getting nominated for Gatorade’s Player of the Year, and making it in Sports Illustrated Magazine are just a few of these achievements that have occurred in the past few years of Atkins high school career.  However if you were to meet her off the court those around her say she would never mention any of these things.

“She’s very humble,” head Pantherette Coach Cathy Self-Morgan said. “She’s got an instinct for the game and gives a 110% on the court, in the halls and around people. She’s just unbelievable.”

Giving 110% on the court is something that Atkins has learned from her upbringing. She said when she was a young child her mom, Lashonda Atkins, put her on a team because the coach saw her playing around in the gym and asked if Atkins was interested in playing competitively and the basketball drive began.

“I had no fears stepping on the court for my first game as a child,” Atkins said. “When you’re little you don’t really think about winning and losing. I just wanted to get out there and play!”

Atkins said as time went on and she started growing as a player and her skills were improving, her mother always made sure she’d stay humble.  She said her mother made it clear that no matter what Atkins was able to accomplish it never went to her head.

“My mom put God in my heart at a young age and just like Ray Lewis says, ‘just as fast as He gave it, God can take it away!’ So I always give it my all!” Atkins said. “Our purpose on this earth is to help others! My goal is to let God’s light shine through my game. I love this game and God has given me the ability to play it! This is just the way I praise him.”

Atkins said sometimes it is hard to believe all the accomplishments she has are really happening.

“As a child I only dreamed of all of this happening,” Atkins said. “I can not believe it is actually happening.”

Not only does Atkins follow a busy basketball schedule she said school Keeps her plenty busy. She takes all pre-AP and AP classes and said she manages to keep up in the A B honor roll.

“I don’t get to sleep much,” Atkins said. “But I know in the end it will all be worth it.”

Atkins’ teachers said she has the same attitude for her school work as she does for basketball. They say she tries hard and never quits.

“Academically, she’s actually a really good student,” Atkins AP history teacher John Strunc said. “She tries hard. She’s constantly trying. If she gets a good grade she wants to know how to do better next time. She doesn’t quit and you see that on the court too, she’s just like that in the classroom.”

Because of Atkins drive on and off the court she said choosing a college has been kind of stressful for her. She said she is glad she has her family and coach for support with this decision and plans to commit to a school in early March.

“I’ve dedicated everything that I haven’t put in to God, my family and my school work into to this sport.” Atkins said. “So choosing a college will be the next big step for me.”

Atkins said her first priority is for the team to see success. She said she is looking forward to the team winning a second State Championship together this year.

“My team is like a second family to me,” Atkins said. “I want to accomplish everything with them. All that other stuff is just the cherry on the top.”

When she is honored, Atkins just wants everyone to know it is her team that makes here who she is. Self-Morgan said Atkins is just a special player.

“She’s just the best I’ve ever coached in 34 years,” Self-Morgan said.

See Ariel in Action at the Region I tournament below