CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Notre Dame point guard Eric Atkins was born in Connecticut and kept his allegiance to the Huskies after moving to Howard County when he was in grade school.
But the games that used to draw his attention every year were those played between Maryland and Duke.
“I was always watched those Duke-Maryland games, that was always the hardest ticket to get,” Atkins said Wednesday at the Atlantic Coast Conference's men's basketball media day.” I would always cherish those games.”
Once he started playing AAU basketball, Atkins rooted for Duke whenever the Blue Devils played the Terps. Two of his former teammates on the D.C. Assault, Nolan Smith and Tyler Thornton, wound up playing for Duke.
The first time he saw a Duke-Maryland game in person was his senior year at Mount St. Joseph when Smith got Atkins a ticket to the game at Comcast Center.
"That was the game he [Smith] got knocked out on a hard screen [by Dave Neal] in the backcourt,” Atkins recalled.
Atkins is looking forward to Notre Dame’s first season in the ACC, particularly his trip to College Park in mid-January. When Atkins was a sophomore, the Fighting Irish lost to Maryland in the BB&T Classic at the Verizon Center in Washington.
“I think the biggest difference for me is going to these different stadiums,” Atkins said. “I’m so used to the same gyms for three or four years. Now I’m going to college gyms. In the Big East, you had a lot of NBA arenas like St. Johns [at Madison Square Garden] and Marquette [at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee]. I think the atmosphere will be louder.”
Asked if the Irish will be at a disadvantage not knowing many of the teams, Atkins said, “I think it’s equal. We don’t know exactly what we’re getting into, but they don’t know much about us, I think it goes both ways.”