With Oklahoma State needing a spark on offense in the second half of its All-College Classic matchup against South Florida, Cowgirl coach Jim Littell turned to reserve guard Brittany Atkins.
Atkins answered the call with eight points in eight minutes while showing an ability to shoot and drive to the bucket. She followed that performance with nine points and four rebounds in 23 minutes in Thursday's 63-57 victory against Michigan State in the Puerto Rico Challenge.
Atkins talked with The Oklahoman before the team left for Puerto Rico about her role this season, what she learned while recovering from a knee injury during her redshirt season and the energy she brings to the Cowgirls in multiple ways.
Q: You tried to come back from your knee surgery last season. What do you remember about the moment when Coach Littell decided to redshirt you?
A: “I remember the meeting like it was yesterday. We got through a morning practice (in January) and I was about to do some more conditioning, because I had just come back, so I wanted to make sure I was in shape. He just said, ‘Come here.' And so I sat down and he was like, ‘I think you're not 100 percent. Do you think you're 100 percent?' I said, ‘No, I'm probably about 60, 65 percent.' And he said ‘When do you think you'll be 100 percent?' I said, ‘Probably about another three weeks,' and then he was just like, ‘Well, I think this year we should just sit you out. I don't want to waste a year for you, and I think you can get better and improve more.' I agreed with it, because I felt like I could have gotten stronger in the weight room. Just sitting out that year, watching what was going on, knowing how hard I had to play, it really motivated me a lot.”
What's the biggest thing you learned while sitting out?
“I learned you just have to turn it up another level. Even the way I could have played last year (at full health), it wouldn't have cut it for Big 12 play or just any other college-level team. I just learned that you had to pick it up.”
What do you most hope to bring to the team this season?
“I think I can help by bringing a lot of energy to the floor, bringing instant offense, doing a lot on defense to create offense. I just think my presence brings a lot of energy, just because of the type of person I am and the way I play. I play hard.”
We see that energy before each game, when you get in the center of the huddle after introductions and help pump up the rest of the team. How'd you get that job?
“I'm just goofy. Whenever we're out and around, I'm the one to make a joke. I'm the one to make everybody laugh. I can make an awkward situation just funny so it won't be awkward anymore. It even started last year, after I got off my crutches, everybody was like ‘You should get in the middle.' And I was like, ‘Yeah.' so it just went from hyping them up, making sure everybody's hyped for the game.”