By Joseph Staszewki
Travis Atson’s name wasn’t part of the conversation about the city’s best players when the season began, but now it will be printed among some of its all-time greats.
By being named the most valuable player of Christ the King’s CHSAA Class AA title run, the Greenpoint native and junior forward will be listed along with players like Kenny Anderson, Jamal Mashburn, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest when mentioning how he claimed the award. Atson, until being told, had no idea the prestige of the group he entered.
“That’s just even more of an honor,” Atson said after a big smile.
His life and how he’s viewed in the basketball community has changed since he had 21 points and 10 rebounds against Bishop Loughlin at Fordham University to propel CK to its fourth city title in five years.
Royals Coach Joe Arbitello said the number of colleges calling has increased, and Atson, who already had a scholarship offer from Quinnipiac, recently picked up another from St. Bonaventure.
“My Twitter has been going crazy,” Atson said. “I think I’ve been in four or five newspapers already. Every day I have another interview.”
None of what he’s accomplished surprises Arbitello. Atson missed his freshmen season with a torn ACL and played limited minutes last year on the varsity as CK won the city and state Federation titles. He waited his turn to shine, but Arbitello saw Atson’s potential every day at practice last year while others didn’t get to catch a glimpse of it in games.
“If he decided to transfer out of Christ the King last year, I wouldn’t have been mad at him,” Arbitello said. “He’s a really, really good player and he probably would have started on 90 percent of the teams last year.”
The talk around the Royals in the preseason focused on highly recruited center Adonis Delarosa, super sophomore Rawle Alkins and senior guard Andre Walker. Despite what Arbitello knew, Atson was still in the process of proving himself even though he had won MVP honors over the summer at Hoops in the Sun and Gauchos Roundball Classic.
He went on to average 16.8 points per game this season and was also the MVP of the prestigious Stop-DWI tournament in Binghamton. Atson will now try to lead the Royals to a second straight state Federation Class AA title starting with a semifinal game against Benjamin Cardozo at 11:45 a.m. this Friday at the Times Union Center in Albany. Covering him is going to be a challenge, according to Cardozo Coach Ron Naclerio, who believes he is among the top five juniors in New York City.
“He’s climbed the ladder so much faster than anybody thought,” Naclerio said. “Watching him, he is a good Division I player.”
Talent evaluator Tom Konchalski believes Atson has been the Royals’ most consistent player. He called him the city’s best offensive rebounder and noted his knack for making plays. He thinks Atson will need to improve his ability to defend guards if he wants to play at a higher level in college, but that doesn’t means more schools shouldn’t be interested.
“He should have an awful lot of offers,” Konchalski said. “I think if he plays well in Albany he’ll get offers.”
All of that will come with time. Atson is happy with where he is as a player and is instead focused on taking his team one step further.
“The MVP is a big step,” Atson said. “But overall I want to win a state championship.”