pins her life goals on the wall above her bed. One of them since she can remember was to be a McDonald's All American.
So imagine the Duncanville (Texas)
senior's reaction when she was selected to the team last month along with 23 of the finest girls basketball players in the country.
"It was a little bit overwhelming," Atkins said. "It was just an amazing feeling – I felt so blessed."
So imagine that feeling times 23 when earlier this week she was named the winner of the
2014 Morgan Wooten Player of the Year award
as the country's top player.
Along with expertise on the floor — Atkins averaged 17.9 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.8 steals and 3.9 assists per game for the 35-1 Panthers — she was recognized for her outstanding character and leadership off the floor.
"It's really shocking to be considered the top girls basketball player in the nation," Atkins said. "To see the names of some of the other girls who have won this award — Maya Moore and Elena Delle Donne — I just feel so blessed."
The 5-foot-11 guard indeed is grateful for all her accomplishments and surroundings: Her full ride scholarship to Texas. Her team's two state championships and 148 career wins (10 losses). Her team's 105-game win streak.
It was just about a perfect high school career, until Manvel
ruined it all with a stunning 58-53 upset in the state finals. It snapped the win streak and a possible mythical national championship.
The defeat stung, Atkins said.
"But I've gotten through it," she said. "You know, you can't have everything go according to plan in life.
"I'm just so thankful for the great girls I played with, the great coaches I played for. Those girls were always there for me and I hope I was for them too. We always pushed each other and of course we all hated to lose. But we were there for one another. I have friends for life."
She plans to make some more this week in Chicago, site of the McDonald's All American game. She's one of four Texans on the West squad, which includes UCLA-bound
of FEAST HomeSchool (San Antonio)
, Notre Dame signee Brianna Turner
of Manvel and fellow Longhorn signee Brooke McCarty
of Clear Springs (League City)
Atkins spent 24 hours in Chicago this week while collecting the Wootten award. She said she couldn't wait to get back to enjoy the long list of activities leading up to the game, which takes place tonight at Chicago's United Center.
The 3.5 GPA student who volunteers at youth basketball camps and mentorship programs was looking forward especially to a trip to the Ronald McDonald House.
"It's going to be an amazing week," she said.
As has her rise in the game of basketball. She started when she was 5 and other than a short stint of volleyball in middle school, she's remained loyal to the game she loves.
Among her many best traits is her ability to shoot. She made a remarkable 58 percent of her shots this season while connecting on 77 percent from the free throw line.
"I believe I've been given a gift from God and I try to let it shine through him," she said. "Every moment I'm on the court I'm thankful whether it's in practice or at a state title game or in Chicago."