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LIVE INTERVIEW: ND basketball forward Paul Atkinson Jr. on Countdown to Kickoff

Published: Nov. 6, 2021 at 8:50 PM EDT
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NOTRE DAME, Ind. (WNDU) - One of the newest members of the Irish men’s basketball team, forward Paul Atkinson Jr., joined Megan Smedley and WHME Sports Director Chuck Freeby on “Countdown to Kickoff” Saturday ahead of Irish football team’s home matchup against Navy.

He explains what it’s like to transfer from an Ivy League school to an ACC program, what Irish fans should know about him as a player, and much more. To watch the full interview, click on the video above.

Megan: Paul, you’re here after spending most of your career at Yale. What’s it like transferring from the Ivy League to the ACC?

Paul: It’s been a lot different. The amenities and just overall accessibility to different food and a lot of nutrition stuff. And the weight room and the access to the coaches. It’s been a little different. It’s a different environment, as I see from the football games and even at our exhibition games. There’s a lot more fans, a lot more support, and it’s been a really good transition. I think the coaches have been doing really well.

Chuck: So, you could’ve gone a lot of places. Why Notre Dame?

Paul: I didn’t get to actually go to any schools because of COVID. A lot of them were just, you know, Zoom interviews. I kind of got into a good relationship with Coach (Mike) Brey and a lot of the assistant coaches. I felt really comfortable. I knew a couple of the players coming in, Nate (Laszewski) and Cormac (Ryan), just through some people that I knew in my life. So, I think that it kind of fit well.

Megan: You’ve got two exhibition games under your belt and a ton of practices. What’s the chemistry like on the team?

Paul: I think we’re coming along really well. These past two exhibition games have gone well. I think we’re starting to come together really well. Once we get our first hands on a Division I opponent next week, I think it will be really good just to see where we’re at. I think we’re doing really well.

Chuck: You’ve got two freshmen on your squad from this area. Give us your initial impressions of Blake (Wesley) and J.R. (Konieczny).

Paul: They’re both coming along really well. I think Blake is coming along really good. He’s shown a lot of promise as a young guy right now. He’s been doing really well for us, passing the ball. We’re getting him to get out of his high school tendencies. J.R. is coming up, you know, all just as well also. They’re coming up and starting to understand what college basketball is. I think it’s coming really well.

Megan: What do you think is going to be the biggest challenge for you guys this year?

Paul: I think just being consistent, you know. Just own up to the challenge and just keeping to everything that we’ve been going over the past summer and the past six weeks in preseason. And making sure we stay consistent with what our coaches are telling us and just do that every game and every night out.

Chuck: As far as you as player, what should fans expect from your game?

Paul: I think I’m a heavy goalpost guy. I’m going to try to step out and make more threes this year. That’s my goal. But, you know, just a dominant force down low. I’m going to come out there and just make myself known. Make my presence known.

Megan: And who would you say you’re most looking forward to playing this year?

Paul: I think Duke and UNC will both be really good games. But I’ve played Duke and UNC. My favorite game I’m looking forward to is Virginia. I’ve heard so much about them and their defense, so I’m looking forward to playing against them. I never got that chance. I think it will be a lot of fun.

The Notre Dame men’s basketball team opens its season on Saturday, Nov. 13, at Purcell Pavilion against Cal State Northridge. Tipoff is set for 12 p.m.

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