(Special for GeorgiaStateSports.com by Brandon Williams, fifth-year student)
Manny Atkins brought talent and experience from the ACC's Virginia Tech to a fairly young Georgia State basketball team. His redshirt junior season has begun with two road games after sitting out all of last year due to NCAA transfer regulations. Tuesday at BYU, Atkins flashed his potential with a team-best 21-point, eight rebound night in Utah. Now, he'll get a chance to show the home folks and GSU fans his play for the first time in regular season in Monday night's game.
"Yes, I am definitely excited to finally get to play at home in front of all my family and friends," Atkins said. "Knowing my mother, she will try to bring the entire family to the game if she could. I've also gotten in touch with my high school coach who is probably one of the loudest and funniest coaches in all of Georgia. It should be fun and I want to get a win."
After a 22-win season in last year, the GSU basketball team lost six key veterans from last year's team, allowing Atkins to take on more of a leadership role now due to his experience of playing in the highly competitive ACC.
"After playing two years in the ACC and playing with some of the top players in college basketball, it has allowed me to pass on my experiences with the younger players and take on a leadership role here," Atkins noted. At Virginia Tech, Atkins received a significant amount of playing time and was productive as he averaged five points per game, grabbed 65 rebounds, made 15 steals, and had seven assists in his sophomore season.
Atkins is an Atlanta native where he won two state championships at Tucker High School, which is also the high school assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie attended. LaBarrie, too, won a state championship. "I have a great relationship with coach LaBarrie, who greatly influenced my decision to attend Georgia State."
A school record-setting scorer at Tucker, Atkins has a unique style. "I haven't really patterned my game after anybody in particular, but many people say I have a Paul Pierce type of game because I do things at a little slower pace, but still know how to score the ball," Atkins admitted. Pierce is a 10-time NBA All-Star now with the Boston Celtics.
Atkins is no stranger to playing on big stages in hostile environments. The Panthers made a trip to Cameron Indoor Stadium last week where they took on nationally ranked Duke. When asked if he had any experience playing in Cameron Indoor he responded, "That wasn't my first time playing at Cameron Indoor, but it was the most I've played. It was a learning experience and you have to find some positives to take away from that game, even though we lost on the scoreboard."
After sitting out all of last year due to NCAA transfer regulations, Atkins had the opportunity to soak in the style of play of second year head coach Ron Hunter. When asked if sitting out an entire year has made the transition into this year's team easier Atkins responded,"I wouldn't say sitting out last year has really made the transition into Coach Hunter's style of play easier, but it has allowed me to learn faster than the rest because I have a good idea of what is going on and what Coach Hunter expects."
Atkins is a 6-foot-seven redshirt junior who hopes to play pro ball, either in the NBA or overseas professional league, once his college days are over.
As a Tucker High School graduate with a 3.9 GPA, Atkins plans to obtain a degree in public policy at Georgia State.
For right now's immediate goal, Monday night is circled on his calendar for his GSU home collegiate debut.