On Sunday, the prestigious Catholic High School Athletic Association (CHSAA), the largest league of its kind in the US, wrapped its basketball tournament at Fordham University, with Middle Village powerhouse Christ the King Regional High School the champs and Greenpoint kid Travis Atson its MVP.
Atson scored 21-points and pulled down ten rebounds during the championship game. For him and his teammates on the Royals, Sunday’s victory over Clinton Hill’s Bishop Loughlin High School meant a second city championship victory in a row.
“The atmosphere was just great,” said Travis. “Everybody was cheering us on. Everyone was just showing such amazing support.”
Atson got interested in basketball at the age of five, after watching a neighbor’s daughter playing the game, and there was no going back for him. His parents Tara and Rick signed him up in the basketball program at the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) on Driggs Avenue and he’s been virtually unstoppable since.
Almost unstoppable. The high school junior suffered a major setback when he was in the eighth grade. During a tournament in Florida, he tore his ACL. At the time he was worried he might never be able to play again.
He was forced to sit out all games for all of his freshman year at high school. Dad Rick credits Travis’ high school coach, his teammate’s support and his son’s determination as being the chief factors that led Travis to continue fighting both the mental and physical demons that sports injuries tend to bring with them.
“They welcomed him right from the start,” said Rick Atson. “They made sure he was part of the team even if he was sitting out the games. It was crucial because he learned something about the sport from a new perspective.”
He struggled to find his form in his sophomore year, but made a sparkling rebound last summer by capturing MVP titles during the summer circuit: At the Hoops in the Sun tournament, and the Gauchos Roundball classic tournament.
Atson’s coach, Joe Arbitello, who has worked with him for the last two years, says he saw a spark in Atson from the very first day he started working with him, and has only seen him grow strength to strength each day since.
“I hope to see him on TV someday,” said Arbitello. “He always had a motive, he is very athletic, and he has a nose for basketball. He used to be two-dimensional player, now he is a four-dimensional player.”
However Atson’s top form entails a grueling routine. Most school days for Atson are followed by two hours of practice. He then goes home to eat, does his schoolwork for about an hour, and then its back to working out for about two hours.
“Push-ups, sit-ups, I’m always pushing him very hard,” said Rick Atson, who also happens to be the director of the 5 Boro AAU Basketball Program.
But Travis loves the routine and said he wouldn’t be putting himself through it otherwise. He credits his parents for being his greatest motivators.
“They are my biggest fans,” he said.
Strong college scholarship offers are likely to follow his consistent top-notch performances, but that’s not something Atson is thinking about too much right now. He said he doesn’t have a favorite school picked out yet and said he will likely decide next year.
His parents too just want him to be able to enjoy what he is doing.
“He is only a junior,” said Rick Atson. “We keep telling him that as long as he is having fun, he should just keep at it.”
Travis’ team, the Royals, have in fact produced a long-list of notable basketball players over the years. Just some of the names include Lamar Odom, a player with the Los Angeles Clippers, and Tina Charles, a WNBA player for the Connecticut Sun, and two-time NCAA Champion.
Next up for Atson and the Royals is a City Championship match on March 21, and 22 in Albany.