Former Virginia Tech small forward Manny Atkins transferred to play for the Georgia State basketball team to complete the 2011 recruiting class last week. We had a chance to catch up with fellow SB Nation family member Chris Hatcher, who serves as the editor of SB Nation's Virginia Tech community Gobbler Country, on his insight about Atkins, what he can bring to the Panthers and the CAA and if he fits in Hunter's style of play.
SB Nation Atlanta: You seemed very confused on why Atkins left Blacksburg. Any insight at all besides "he just wanted to come home?"
Gobbler Country: Looking at the only evidence we have at our disposal (1. Manny's Virginia Tech career to this point and 2. [Virginia Tech head coach Seth] Greenberg's history of shying away from playing time for freshmen), it was beyond shocking that Manny decided to transfer. I mean this wasn't even on our radar. I know that we have the top recruiting class in school history coming in (including SF Dorian Finney-Smith), but Manny's role in the offense was due to increase. He was our most experienced small forward, he was our best returning 3-point shooter, and he was our sixth man after injuries took us down to seven scholarship players at the end of last year. Again, Greenberg isn't usually a guy who will throw a freshman out there unless he has to, and Atkins is such a cerebral kid I think Greenberg definitely trusts him more than a freshman who may be a phenom, but is raw. So again, based on the evidence WE have, it's a surprising move, because I DO think he could be a pretty good starting player in the ACC.
SB Nation Atlanta: New Georgia State coach Ron Hunter has said since he was hired that he wants an up tempo, fast paced style. Do you think this fits Atkins and his style of play?
Gobbler Country: I do think Atkins is a guy who can benefit from that kind of offense. He's a guy who can light it up from range. If he is a trailer in transition he can burn a team. Of course everyone's stats seem to rise in that kind of system, but I think that Manny's only problem in that situation is if he is forced to handle the ball and bring it up the court at that speed and if he is baited by the pace to take bad shots.
SB Nation Atlanta: Other than your stated turnover and shot selection improvement, how do you envision Atkins getting better as a junior and senior?
Gobbler Country: Well, Manny does a number of things that make coaches blush. For one, he isn't afraid to mix it up in the paint to grab a board. He hustles his butt off on the floor. There's always a place on the floor for a guy like that. It also helps that he's a good 3-point shooter and a 91% FT shooter. But, despite all the positives, Manny does need to improve his ball handling, shot selection, frequency of his passing, defense, and he really needs to drive to the bucket more, something he is better at than he must believe. I think if Manny is able to use his 3-point success to make guys buy a shot fake, he can get to the basket time after time in the CAA. He's a pretty good athlete. It may sound like I'm saying he's got a LOT to work on, but most of it is just little stuff in each area.
SB Nation Atlanta: Based on his limited success in the ACC, what do you think Atkins' ceiling is in a conference like the CAA?
Gobbler Country: He has had limited success in the ACC, but in limited minutes. He was an important member of our team the last two years, and based on the results to this point, we thought he might be a key cog going forward. In the ACC at least, Manny was never going to be a superstar, but he was also never going to be a guy to lose you games. He was a solid, supporting role-player. I don't want to demean the CAA, because my roommate is a huge fan of a CAA team and as such I've watched and observed the quality of CAA basketball over the years, BUT there still is a little difference in class. Therefore, I don't expect Manny to set any conference records, but seeing a 15-20 ppg. season as a senior wouldn't be unthinkable. So congratulations Georgia State, you've got a player that 8 power conference schools offered (including FSU, GT, Michigan and Marquette) and that both Seth Greenberg and I coveted. On top of that, he's an unbelievable person. Good luck Manny.
Thanks to Chris Hatcher, and follow all things Virginia Tech at Gobbler Country.