Former NBA player turned coach leads Evans High School

chucky-atkinsWhen Chucky Atkins came home to Evans High School in Orlando, a whole bunch of basketball players showed up to play for him – including his brother.

Atkins, a 1992 graduate of Evans who went on to spend 11 years in the NBA, was hired last spring to coach his alma mater and now sends his team against Martin County (26-3) at 2:30 p.m. Friday in Lakeland in a Class 7A state semifinal.

Atkins, a 5-foot-11 guard, was undrafted out of the University of South Florida but signed with the Orlando Magic after spending one year in the former CBA and two years in Croatia.

Atkins played in 696 NBA games (326 started), averaging 9.9 ppg, 3.4 apg, in 24.9 minutes per game.

He had his best season in 2004-2005, as a starter for the Los Angeles Lakers, where he averaged career best 13.2 ppg.

He last played in 2010 with the Detroit Pistons, but he was never forgotten by his hometown — or its young players. In fact, five players zoned for Evans who initially chose to attend other schools, returned after Atkins was hired, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

“They’re long, they’re big and they’re talented,” said Martin County coach John Leon, who spent Monday on the phones gathering information.

He also procured a game tape, but had only glanced at it by early evening.

“From what I’ve heard, they are very defense oriented,” Leon said. “They don’t want to shoot a bunch of jump shots. They might try a little 2-2-1 pressure, but mostly they get back in the zone and use their size.”

Two of Evans’ top three scorers transferred to the school. Courtney Williamson, a 6-5 guard who played at Olympia last season, is averaging a team-high 15.6 points per game.

P.J. Atkins is scoring 11.3 per game and Benly Olizia 11.2. Both are guards, and Atkins, who played at Edgewater last year and missed time this year with an injury, is the younger brother of the coach.

Another guard, Malik Smith, averages 9.4 points per game.

Forwards Dre Clayton (Orlando Christian Prep), Kerry Blackshear (Edgewater) and Jacarl Owens (Apopka) also moved to Evans (19-7) this year.

Clayton, who has signed with South Florida, is Evans’ best big man, but has missed most of the season with an injury. He is the only senior.

Owens, a 6-6 forward, is averaging 7.5 points per game, most among the inside players. Blackshear, at 6-7, is the tallest player on the roster.

Evans uses an eight- or nine-man rotation.

“They’re really pretty big and don’t run much,” Leon said. “That’s based on what little information I have. They’ll definitely be the bigger team and will want to use their size against our smaller guards.”

Evans goes into the final four winners of their last five games, all in tournament play. Evans beat Winters Springs, Oviedo, Viera, New Smyrna Beach and Jacksonville-Ed White to reach the state tournament. Martin County has won eight consecutive games.

The teams have no common opponents. Martin County is ranked third in Class 7A on the FABC/ poll, Evans is fourth.


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