TJ Atwood is heading to the All-Star game and it's no surprise why. By Pablo Cheeks

TJ Atwood is heading to the All-Star game and it's no surprise why. By Pablo Cheeks

Marjon University sports facilities are second to none. On a sunny Wednesday morning, known by many university sports students as “Varsity Day”, I found myself in the very privileged position of being allowed to attend the Plymouth City Patriots practice and more specifically, to sit down and talk to perhaps the best two way player in the British Basketball League today, Mr TJ Atwood. Ask anyone within the Patriots organisation about TJ and the response will always be the same. TJ Atwood is a legitimate pro that does everything the right way. He has an exceptional work ethic and is always the first guy in the gym, which indeed he was, as he entered the sports hall, already in his training gear, ready for whatever Head Coach Paul James might throw at him. “It started from when I was younger”, started Atwood, trying to put his finger on where and when his dedication began. He continued, “I always liked being around the game. I was this curious kid that would take a basketball and go and shoot for hours on end, have a break for an hour, get something to eat and come back and do it all over again, for like three or four times a day. That mindset has never changed and I always feel like a kid again when I get in the gym.” As he got older, TJ began to understand the importance of working on his own game, keeping team practise separate, allowing him to improve quickly and efficiently and he always took any feedback onboard.

In the world of elite basketball, feedback and criticism is essential for a player's development. In some cases delivery of such detailed analysis needs to be measured and the reaction of the reciprocant needs careful consideration. But not with TJ. “At certain times it’s needed. I don’t always wanna be told that I’m doing a good job,” he explains, proving not only that he is the ultimate professional, but also how much he values the team ethos. “I encourage hard criticism. Coach PJ may see something to get more out of me. In my mind there's always something I can improve on, so if he’s not giving me constructive criticism, I’ll be criticising myself, especially after practice and games.”

For the benefit of the team and in some ways to his own detriment, TJ Atwood has always followed orders and put the team's needs above any preconceived notions of individual success. Whatever Coach James has asked of him, he has delivered with interest. This has included earlier in the season, playing out of position to accommodate teammates, and more often than not, picking up the other team's more productive players on defence, regardless of their position. “If it helps us win, I’ll do it. I pride myself on that. Egos get checked at the door, especially with me.”

Indeed, TJ is perhaps one of the most humble professional sports people you're ever likely to meet. Something he attributes to family life and where he is from. “I come from a place that hasn’t really seen a lot of successful people and has been through more hard times than good. I always keep that in the forefront of my mind. I’m very grateful to be in this position, but I know all this can change in a second, so I don’t take it for granted.” Growing up in Beaumont, Texas has certainly helped shape TJ into the man he is today, and his time in college also helped to lay some fundamentals both on and off the court. His numbers at the University of Lamar were top level earning him a Southland Conference player of the Week and inclusion in the All-Southland Conference Second Team for the 2020 season. This itself earned him his first pro selection for

BK Iskra Svit in the Slovakian league, where he featured in the top ten for multiple stats, leading his team to fourth and their best win percentage since 2014.

Now, in his second season as a pro, he’s continued in the British Basketball League where he left off in Slovakia, featuring in the top ten in eight league leading stat columns, not to mention being the most efficient player in the league. “I’ve always enjoyed impacting the game from many different areas. You get to the point where you can be effective in so many ways, then there’s not one thing anybody can do to stop you,” he said, almost skating over the fact that on paper, he is the best player in the league right now. He humbly added “to lead the league in efficiency, I mean, I’m nothing but grateful for that, especially in a league with all of this talent and all of these great players, I’m super super grateful for that. I guess you could say it’s in my DNA, to try and

TJ Atwood League Leading Stats

Average Points



Total Rebounds



Average Offensive Rebounds



Field Goals Made



Field Goal %



2-Points Made



2-Point %



Average Minutes



Efficiency Points



impact the game in so many ways. I want to do whatever it takes for my team to win.” A recurring theme, but non the less, a significant and positive driving force for TJ and one his teammates and coach are more than grateful for themselves. “He’s been exceptional all season,” started Head Coach Paul James, later on when the practice session was well underway. He continued, “he does everything and anything I ask of him, all to help the team. And I’ll tell you this: if we were higher up the league table, everyone would be talking about him and adding him to the MVP discussion.”

His excellent work ethic and continued selflessness combined with his off the chart basketball IQ, high skill set and a jump shot that is simply a work of art, has gained TJ selection into this season's All Star Game, where he will represent the South as a reserve at The Copperbox in London, taking place on 17th March. Ultimately it was the coaches selection that will see TJ suit up for the South All Stars, after he came agonisingly close to making the starting five from the fan votes. “I’d like to thank everybody that voted to try to get me into the starting five, I appreciate all their efforts. I don’t want to see it in a negative way, instead it just adds a bit more fuel to the fire for me when I’m workin out, especially on those days when I don’t want to, little things like that help me get through it.”

In many ways TJ’s selection into the All Star game was more legitimate, getting the acknowledgement from the South Coach Petar Bozic, which of course, TJ is very humble and grateful for. Recognition from one's peers is often held with a higher regard, and TJ is very proud and excited to have been selected by the coach.

TJ Atwoods selection, stats and general recognition has been something he’s definitely taken pride in, although there is certainly something else he has taken pride in this season that perhaps slides under the radar for many British Basketball League fans across the country. He mentioned his keenness in influencing the game in as many ways as possible, but one key impact is possibly overlooked. His defensive capabilities. More often than not TJ’s defensive assignment is the opposition's best player, which has seen him excel on multiple occasions. He has been responsible for shutting down Matt Morgan, Patrick Whelan, Teddy Allen, Aaryn Rai and Tajh Green, five of the league's top performers this season and in som cases front runners for the MVP race. “I appreciate that. It’s something I hang my hat on,” he started, once again humbly and gratefully accepting any notion that he might be one of the best defenders in the league this season. “There’s a lot that goes into it. My goal might not specifically be to hold a player under 20-points, as with some of the talent you might not be able to shut them down completely. But the key is to make it as tough as possible for them. I love and enjoy playing defence and making it tough for the opposing team. I take pride in it.”

Pride in his performance both on and off the court is something that can certainly be attributed to why TJ is the player and person that he is. He is definitely at home in front of a big crowd, showcasing his skills, but he is also just as at home attending a youth basketball session or school coaching sessions across Plymouth. He will often be one of the last players to leave the court post game, making his way around the hundreds of Patriots fans that want his autograph and a selfie, whether it’s their first game or they regularly attend. “I love Plymouth,” he said, continuing,”the city and the atmosphere. And the people, they show up for every game regardless, win, lose or draw and I love that about them. They support us no matter what, which is another reason why I give any and everything to try to get a win for them.”

With his clear love and appreciation for Plymouth, one final question loomed large. One that all Patriots fans await the response of, with bated breath. What are the chances that TJ Atwood returns to the Patriots next season? “I mean shoot, I have been talking to some of my teammates about it, because we’ve enjoyed our time here. It’s so far ahead, the off season, and I don’t like looking back or forward too much, so we’ll see. But I love these fans by the way, and I would do anything for them. Everytime I meet them I try to embrace them like they’ve embraced me, so we’ll just have to see.”

Despite being somewhat noncommittal with his response, the opposite should be said regarding his performances for the Patriots this season. His persona and playing ability are both highly commendable, as TJ very much lets his skills on the court do the talking. His selection to the All Star South team is something of a tangible reward for his hard work and dedication, although he himself admits he would give up his selection in lieu of a few more wins for both the team and their diehard fans.

Pablo Cheeks 

Back to blog