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Feb. 6, 2014

CHARLOTTESVILLE – Junior forward Darion Atkins (Clinton, Md.) is playing an important role off the bench for Virginia this season. Atkins, who tallied 11 rebounds against JMU in the season opener, is averaging 3.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per game this season.

Atkins recently sat down with to talk about his junior season at Virginia.

Q: You have been one of the top shot blockers on the team throughout your career. Is being a defensive presence a role you embrace?
Darion Atkins: “I definitely embrace a defensive role. I feel like that is something that comes naturally to me. Ever since I started playing basketball, people have always said that I had a natural ability to play defense. Blocking shots is also something that comes naturally to me and I enjoy that part of the game, too.”

Q: Do you feel like having a talent to play defense helps you on this team, that has such a defensive focus?
DA: “It helps me fit in on this team. You have to play well defensively or else you won’t get a chance to play on this team. But, it has also made me work harder to improve my offensive game to be able to contribute on that end as well.”

Q: You are one of the older players on a young team this season. Have you tried to be more of a leader this season?
DA: “I have tried to be a leader. With our two freshmen, even though they are guards and I am a big man, I have been trying to give them words of wisdom. Even though the other big guys, like Mike Tobey or Anthony Gill, have a little more experience, I can still try and be a positive leader for them and give them encouragement when they are out there.”

Q: How does this year’s team compare to your first two seasons at Virginia?
DA: “I think, overall, we have more talent on this team. We have been able to put that together over the last month and play in a way that makes the most of that talent. Everyone has their role and is playing it well to help the team win.”

Q: During the ACC season, the team has had a lot of consistent performances, no matter the opponent or location. What has been the key to that?
DA: “It doesn’t what our next game is, whether it is at JPJ or on the road, or who we play, we need to have the same preparation and same focus. We tell each other all the time, every game you need to be ready to give it your all. It doesn’t matter if it is North Carolina, Duke, Boston College or Virginia Tech. We need to play with the same intensity to be successful.”

Getting to know Darion:

If you have an hour of free time, what do you like to do?

Favorite Movie?
The Man of Steel

Favorite Class at UVa?
Business and Ethics

Why do you wear No. 32?
I have always worn No. 32 or No. 12. Always something with a two in it. My mom likes it because she has little chants like “1-2, what’cha gonna do?” or “3-2, they can’t handle you!” Because she likes it, I made sure I had a two in my number.

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