Atkins is a very good shot blocker. - Grant Halverson
Sophomore PF Darion Atkins impressed in limited action last year. With the departure of Mike Scott and Assane Sene, Atkins' playing time will increase dramatically. He has the potential to be a very good inside player on both ends of the floor, and will be a valuable asset to the team this year.
The most likely scenario for the beginning of the season is for the starting power forward to be 6'8" 222 pound sophomore Darion Atkins. This is because Tony Bennett is unlikely to start a freshman so early in the season, without any idea of how they'll manage in live game situations. Atkins has been on the floor and Tony knows what he can do.
The problem is that Atkins isn't an ideal PF for Tony Bennett. For one thing, he's a bit too much like Akil Mitchell. They are almost identical in size and neither possesses much of a refined offensive game. Both are long, lanky and athletic. Atkins might be a bit more athletic than Mitchell, but Mitchell seems to have a better feel on offense.
But a bigger problem is that Tony Bennett wants to have forwards who can spread the floor and step outside to hit a jumper. Neither Mitchell nor Atkins has really shown that ability consistently at the college level, although both do possess a solid 15 foot jumper.
What Atkins does bring to the floor is shot-blocking, rebounding and an ability to finish above the rim. Fast-forward to the 3:25 mark in last year's Wisconsin-Green Bay highlights for a nice view of that finishing ability. Despite averaging just over 10 minutes per game, Atkins led the team last year with 19 blocked shots. During his senior year of High School, Atkins averaged over 7 blocks per game. He blocked 11 shots in a single game against Bullis High School. Atkins has a major block at about the 4:30 mark of the highlights from last year's win at NC State.
With the early season schedule not being particularly daunting (at least until the NIT semis, if we get that far), the frontcourt duo of Atkins and Mitchell should provide good defense, strong rebounding and enough of a threat on offense to keep the pressure off our perimeter players. As the youngsters get their feet under them, I could see one of them getting the starting nod, with Atkins coming off the bench. The argument in Atkins' favor, of course, is his shot-blocking ability, which is a big plus on defense.