Flashy scoring totals, and much more

Junior guard Jada Atchison is more than a flashy player, and opponents should not underestimate the 5-foot dynamo, who can score 50 points one game and dish out 15 assists the next. DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer
Junior guard Jada Atchison is more than a flashy player, and opponents should not underestimate the 5-foot dynamo, who can score 50 points one game and dish out 15 assists the next. DAVID M WARREN / Staff Photographer
Posted: January 11, 2014

Jada Atchison is well-spoken beyond her years.

At 5-foot, she excels on the basketball court with bullet speed and blind aggression. Off the court, her words are measured, slow, and thoughtful.

Atchison, junior guard of the Burlington City girls' basketball team, was averaging more than 40 points before Tuesday night's matchup at Riverside. When she took the court against Riverside, she was within 40 points of 1,000 for her career. And she was just one game removed from scoring 50 against Camden.

Fifty points are a jaw-dropping total. But her stats Tuesday night told a much deeper story: 14 points, 15 assists.

"That whole day when I was in school," Atchison said, "everyone was expecting me to go out there and score 40 points. But, no, I already knew that Riverside had a game plan. I already knew that they were either going to double-team me or triple-team me.

"But what they didn't know was: I'm not the only girl on the team - there are other players. So I took that opportunity to say, 'It's time to put my 1,000th point aside and think about the team.' So I set the scoring aside, and I went to the assist column."

Some star players sound empty and scripted when talking about the merits of team play. But Atchison talks with spite in her voice of anyone overlooking the rest of the Blue Devils.

For those wondering how a player can score 50 of her team's 70 points and still be considered team-oriented and a leader, look no further than Atchison's performance and explanation of Tuesday's win at Riverside.

"If it wasn't for the way the team supports her and the way she supports the team, her success and our success might not be possible, and Jada is the first to point that out," Burlington City coach Mark McCann said. "And because of that, the girls around her respond to her. She's become our leader."

As a sophomore, Atchison was the top player on a Blue Devils team that won its first Burlington County Freedom Division title since 2004.

Her talent was as evident last season as it is now: She is lightning-quick with tremendous court vision, a nifty ball handler who can drain three-pointers as smoothly as she can drive the lane against players a foot taller.

But what has elevated her game this season, she said, is her leadership, her greater awareness of those around her.

"I play basketball year-round. My teammates know I'm more experienced than them," Atchison said. "But I'm not going to be selfish. I want to share my experience. I want to show them what I know, and I want them to push me to get better."

If nothing else, Atchison's love for the game is infectious. She considers basketball more than just a part of her life. "It's a part of who I am," she said.

She fell in love with the game at an early age and quickly fell in love with the work that it takes to be great. Hard work helped her overcome what is perhaps her only disadvantage: her height.

"Honestly," said Atchison, who wants to play in college but is unsure where. "I'm a big player. My heart is big. My height doesn't bother me. I have no fear at all. People underestimate me because I'm a short player. But they don't know the ability that I have on the court. I want to prove them wrong."

The days of people underestimating Atchison in South Jersey are likely over. She reached 1,000 points Thursday night, and her flashy stats make her impossible to ignore.

But Atchison is more concerned with repeating in the Freedom Division, elevating the perception of Burlington City basketball.

As for the added pressure that comes with success - the spotlight that has been thrust on her? Atchison doesn't seem to notice.

"The first thing my coaches and my parents taught me is never break under pressure," she said. "I don't feel pressure at all. And if it wasn't for my team, I wouldn't get this much attention."


rallysports@phillynews.com

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