October 24, 2018
By Tim Chambers
Tomahawk Sports Editor
Many high school athletes have a dream of playing basketball at the college level. Blake Atwood is no different from any of them.Johnson County’s senior point guard just completed playing in the Rocky Top League on a team that finished fourth. He also was a member of the Tennessee Fury, one of Knoxville’s elite on the AAU circuit. Russ Biven was Atwood’s AAU coach and one of the most respected ones in the business. He said that having Blake on the team was a joy, but it almost didn’t happen.
“I knew it was a long drive for them from Mountain City to here in Knoxville,” said Biven. “I didn’t want to put a hardship on his family, but he wanted to play. I told him to come and play with us in our first tournament and see what they thought. He ended up playing in every game.”
Atwood remembered that tournament well. He enjoyed playing for Biven and with all his teammates.
“He’s a great coach that I loved playing for,” said Atwood. “He took all his players and treated us like we were his kids. I played with guys from Bearden and some from Knox West including his son. I made a lot of good friends down there.”
Atwood said the first few tournaments were tough because they hadn’t played or practiced much together.
“We didn’t know each other, but we won our first tournament because it was a smaller one. We didn’t play very good the in the second tournament which was much bigger and had better teams, but we improved each week.”
Coach Biven liked Atwood the first time they met. He grew to love Blake after watching him play in several tournaments.
“If you play within the confines of the team then you’ll shine as an individual,” said Biven. “These college coaches don’t want to see a guy who is just one on one all day. They want kids who can create and make the other ones around him better. Blake came down and just shined in his first tournament. I knew he was special the more I kept watching him improve his game. The guys on our team loved playing with him because he knows how to distribute the ball, but he can score too.”
Atwood put up some big numbers as an AAU player and in the Rocky Top League. He averaged around 20 points per game at the AAU level and over 19 in the Rocky Top.
“It’s so much different down here because you’re playing against some D1 type players. It’s harder to score, and the game is a much faster pace. We don’t have many set plays, so you have to create shots for your teammates and yourself. It’s sometimes hard getting everyone involved.”
Coach Biven felt like Blake proved himself against some of the best players across the state. He said he did it in both the Rocky Top and AAU leagues.
“He was playing against some D1 guards in the Rocky Top League and was right there with them,” added Biven. “He is quick and can defend but what I like about Blake is he can play on both sides of the ball. Coaches want to see if you can defend and Blake can do it all.”
Atwood got to go up against some of the best talent in the country in their last tournament played in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Biven felt like he proved his worth with several college coaches in attendance.
“We played against Team Wall. This was John Wall’s AAU team of the Wizards, and nobody gave us a chance to beat them. They had some huge stars on that team and Blake shined, and we won. He defended well and had over 20 points. He creates space off the dribble as good as anyone I’ve seen, and he certainly did it in that game. He’s got a quick release and knows how to get his shot off, but he can also take it to the goal hard. His basketball IQ is off the chart. He played right with the some of the best players around and averaged 20 points per game.”
Atwood has drawn interest from several places including VMI and another school out of Charleston, West Virginia.
“VMI came to watch me play in the South Carolina tournament, “added Atwood. “Maryville College has watched me and some others. I want to wait and see what happen during the season before I commit somewhere. I’m looking forward to basketball practice getting started. I want to see what we can do.”
Biven touched on what was next once Blake’s films land on the desks of college coaches.
“It’s now a question of if he will play but where he will play. The coaches will jump on board when they watch him and see what type of young man he is. We feel like he is part of our family now.”