Ariel Atkins began her basketball career in Duncanville - first at Reed Middle School and then as a Pantherette at Duncanville High School.
Last week, the WNBA champion returned home after her professional team, the Washington Mystics, won the national championship defeating the Connecticut Sun 89-78 in game five of the 2019 WNBA Finals.
Atkins is no stranger to winning. During her time as a Pantherette, her team amassed a 100 game winning streak and won two 6A University Interscholastic League State Championships. After graduating from Duncanville High School, Atkins played for the University of Texas at Austin before being drafted in the first round by the Washington Mystics in 2018.
Atkins said her solid work ethic and foundational skills, such as ball-handling and foot work, have been a big factor in her success.
“Defense is the reason I am starting in the league,” Atkins said. “Everyone works on scoring, but if you are the person to stop them it gets people thinking. It separates you.”
Atkins spent time with Pantherettes last Thursday as they were preparing for their season to start next month. She reinforced the same messages Pantherettes Head Coach LaJeanna Howard imparts every day - the importance of effort, discipline and team work.
“The hard part comes when you have choices,” Atkins said. “Could I stay in and sleep because I know I’m tired or could I go out? Could I do this homework or take this nap? The choices are the hard part.
The work is not the hard part if you are the type of person who gets it done. If you are not the type of person who gets the work done, then your life is going to be hard period because you are going to have to work.”
Just two years into her career in the WBNA, Atkins is making a name for herself. She is reliable in putting up points when she has the ball but has become valuable to the Mystics for keeping other team’s stars from scoring. Atkins is also known as one of the league’s top ball hawks. She is in the top ten percent in steals for both her rookie and sophomore seasons.
As a professional basketball player, Atkins spends a lot of time on the road, but she always finds a way to make it back to Duncanville to reconnect with family and friends.
“It’s where I grew up,” Atkins said. “I love everything about this city. No place is perfect but this is our community.”