This year, Ariel Atkins made the offseason a true “off” season; No basketball abroad for the first time in her professional career. As one can imagine, she is having a great time.
Ariel Atkins takes on new role as ‘The Game Ambassador’ appeared in the original NBC Sports Washington
In the most recent WNBA season, Ariel Atkins spent her time playing for a Ukrainian basketball team before the Russian invasion prompted the league to move to Bulgaria. Two years ago she was in Turkey before the COVID-19 pandemic prompted Atkins to decide to come home early. Before that, I traveled halfway around the world to play in the Australian WNBL and before Poland.
It wasn’t until this season, after the 2022 campaign, that Atkins got a real break from the game for the first time since before she was drafted. And that’s if you look at Team USA’s commitments to the FIBA World Cup in late September.
This year I made the off-season a real “off” season. No basketball abroad for the first time in her professional career. As one can imagine, she is having a great time.
But that didn’t keep her off the basketball court for seven months between seasons. She joined the Youth Clinic in Raleigh in November, and recently caught up with NBC Sports Washington while training at the NBA Academy Women’s Latin America Camp.
“I always enjoy being a part of anything I can do to give back to the basketball community,” said Atkins.
“One of the main reasons I didn’t go abroad was to accept opportunities like this.”
The four-day camp took place in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. Atkins was one of three current WNBA players to participate in the event. There, 29 of the best high school-age candidates from 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries received basketball development training and participated in daily competitions.
This isn’t the first time Atkins has trained in a camp in this style. But being able to move away from playing in other countries opens up new horizons. Training at the NBA Academy wasn’t something she could have done in previous years simply because she wasn’t in the States. Her free time also allowed her to join several panels in the D.C. area and make plans to launch her own clothing line later in the year.
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All of these opportunities opened up her perspective of what she could do outside of becoming an athlete. A year off gave her a fresh look at her career and what the next chapter might look like.
“It’s definitely helpful,” Atkins told NBC Sports Washington about if this opened her eyes for how to handle the years ahead. “I think it definitely gives me a different path and a different opportunity. It doesn’t mean I’ll never go back abroad, but it’s interesting to know that there are opportunities not just here in the States, but just to be who I am and be who I am, not just as a person. , but I guess you could kind of say as an ambassador for the game.”
Much of the flexibility Atkins has now can be attributed to her new contract. Last season The Guardian I signed a two-year extension That came with a huge salary increase. Her salary from the 2022 season was nearly the total salary he accrued on his four-year rookie deal.
Now, she does not have to go abroad to simply make a living as a professional basketball player. She can enjoy the benefits of being a two-time WNBA star, a gold medal-winning Olympian and a proud member of Team USA.
“I mean, it’s been fun. I’m enjoying it, being able to go see my family when I want, kind of building on my training schedule. Working on some stuff outside of basketball, it’s been really fun. I’ve had fun with it. I’ve had fun with it,” Atkins said. I kind of enjoyed, I guess, learning how to not be athletic all the time.”