ATLANTA - During the player introductions last weekend, Amira Atwater probably received the loudest cheers among her Georgia Southern teammates.
The Eagles were at the GSU Sports Arena taking on arch-rival Georgia State in a Sun Belt Conference game. Part of the large cheering section for the sophomore point guard was that she was playing about 25 minutes east of her hometown.
Atwater the former all-state guard from Douglas County High, where she helped lead the Tigers to the Final Four.
“It is always fun coming back home,” Atwater said. “We have played against each other throughout high school. It is always a fun game. It is pretty cool to see all the support you get when you come back home.”
Although the Eagles suffered a loss to Georgia State, Atwater was happy to play near her hometown for the second straight season.
She is now the starting guard for a young Eagles’ team has has struggled this season.
Georgia Southern is 5-13 overall and 1-6 in the conference.
“The season has been hard,” Atwater said. “We come in everyday and work hard. It just has to transfer from the practice to the game.”
She has started 14 of the team’s 18 games and is averaging 22.3 minutes per contest. Atwater is averaging 3.2 points and 2.2 rebounds while leading the team with 53 assists. She is second on the team with 26 steals.
“She is going through that growing stage that we are going through,” Georgia Southern coach Kip Drown said. “She plays the toughest spot on the floor. When you are the point guard everything runs through you. She is really growing in the program.”
Last season as a freshman, Atwater played in 29 games while making eight starts for a team that finished 13-17 overall. She averaged 14.5 minutes and 3.2 points per game.
As a freshman, her best game came against Alabama where she had 14 points in 35 minutes against the Crimson Tide.
But Drown is patience with his point guard as she continues to adjust to the fast pace of college basketball
“College is different than high school,” Drown said. “She is growing in the job. We run different things and seeing different things. She is a great, great kid. She has a bright future.”
Atwater said she has seen some growth on the court.
“I think I’ve cut down on the mental errors in the last two year,” Atwater said. “It has to be credited to the coaches and my teammates. They have encouraged me and not let me get down on myself.”
The Eagles only lose three seniors from this season’s team. Atwater will be counting on to becoming more of a leader in the next couple of seasons.
“We are going to be more experienced in getting through adversity,” Atwater said. “That is always going to be a good thing but it has to start now.”
Said Drown: “We just have to keep pounding away. It is hard to do when you are not getting the success you want but that is really the only option you have. Some nights we are all going to step on the floor and it is all going to come together. I think the dam is going to break and it is all going to flow for us.”
Off the court, Atwater has experienced success as she works towards her degree in exercise science. She was named to the Sun Belt Conference Academic Honor Roll last season.
“Aside from school and basketball, I really like hanging out with the team,” she said. “We bond real well.”