Though Maryland was among the schools that didn't recruit him — the Terps had Terrell Stoglin and Pe'Shon Howard — it didn't bother Atkins that he didn't wind up a Terp.

Atkins, who moved to the state from Connecticut when he was in grade school, admits that he grew up a Duke fan, starting when he was attending Bryant Woods Elementary School among classes filled with Maryland fans.

"Everyone at my school really liked Maryland, and I was kind of like a rebel so I always cheered for Duke," Atkins said. "I never really liked the teams everyone else rooted for. ... I never really think about [the possibility of playing at Maryland]. I really like the position I'm in now."

Brey, who also grew up in the area, said it has been a good fit from the start.

As a freshman, Atkins led the Big East in assist-to-turnover ratio.

"He's always been steady, knows how to play, thinking the game. He's going to be a great coach someday when he's done playing," Brey said. ""Even as a freshman, he was the same guy in practice every day. He never tried to experiment with his game. Now all of a sudden we need him to do more and he's doing it and he's delivering."

Along with the points, and the assists, Atkins has to be more of a leader than he has ever been before.

"There is no doubt who is setting the tone with this group — that was true with Jerian, now it is even more so a lot on him," Brey said. "I told him, 'Everyone can lead when it's all nice and you're rolling along. Leading now in a time of crisis and we're trhying to figure it out, that's the test of a true leader.'"

don.markus@baltsun.com

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