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The Portsmouth Invitational (PIT) has been an NBA pre-draft event for decades. 64 of some of the best seniors in college hoops along with hordes of NBA and European scouts descend on the small Virginia city for one weekend every spring. The goal for a lot of these players is the same: make a good enough impression to be picked in June’s NBA Draft or at least do well enough to perk up the ears of International scouts looking to bring talent abroad.
For the past few years, it's been commonplace for higher-profile "name" players to rescind on invites to the PIT. Some players and agents want to give off a certain image of a player and don’t want to risk him playing badly. But some players, regardless of their stock, just want to play and prove themselves.
Darion Atkins mirrors the classic pro underdog story. He was the seventh replacement player picked to go to PIT. The last guy added to the rosters. After University of California’s David Kravish dropped out at the last minute, the local University of Virginia center was ready to go. And go he did.
Standing at 6’7” with a 7’2” wingspan, Atkins is not your typical big man prospect. While undersized centers are flourishing in Europe and many International leagues around the world, the NBA is still a size centric league. But here is what Atkins displayed to every scout in the gym after finishing first in scoring (20 per game), third in rebounding (10.3 per game), and tied for first in blocks (3.7 per game).
The moral of the story for other players out there is:
You never know when your number will be called or when the right people will be watching. Darion Atkinswent from averaging seven points and six rebounds his senior season and barely being on any NBA scout's radar to being in the hunt to be drafted in June’s NBA Draft. And he did it all just by being more ready to play than any other player over a four-day stretch in Portsmouth.
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