BLOOMINGTON-When Rod Wilmont and Marshall Strickland first found out about D.J. White's potentially-season ending injury, one of the first people both called was Hoosier freshman Ben Allen.
The call wasn't just about alerting the 6'11" big man to the news. It was also about letting him know that it was time for him to help fill the void.
"They called me, as upperclassmen, telling me what to expect," said Allen. "With D.J. out, I'm going to have to play a bigger role in the Big Ten, and the Big Ten is a lot different than the preseason games we've played."
That's particularly true in East Lansing, where Spartan Coach Tom Izzo traditionally assembles one of the league's most physical squads. That's something Wilmont pointed out, letting him know that he can't back down against the likes of Paul Davis, and he can't look to the officials for a great deal of help.
"I called Ben and said that we needed him to be ready to play," said Wilmont. "Just knowing from going up there with George (Leach) and all those guys, how physical they play. I said don't look for any fouls because you're not going to get them."
Another thing Allen hasn't been getting as of late is minutes. Ever since scoring 21 points in Indiana's 72-67 loss at Indiana State, Allen has been limited to a combined six points in Indiana's last six games while averaging just 6.3 minutes. For the season, he's averaging 4.8 points, 2.2 rebounds and 9.9 minutes while shooting 61.1 percent from the floor and 68.8 percent from behind the 3-point arc.
The return of White had cut into Allen's time, as had the fact the IU coaching staff has had a great deal of success playing just one big man and then flanking him with four guards around the perimeter.
While that personnel grouping will continue to be a regular feature of the IU attack, there's no question Allen is about to see his role expand dramatically.
"It's a huge opportunity for me," said Allen. "I've been getting two or three minutes these last four or five games. I've been waiting for my time. It's unfortunate that D.J. had to go out like this, but it's also a huge opportunity for me, and I'm going to try to make the most of it."
Allen isn't the same sort of defensive presence that White is, and he's not as gifted offensively around the basket. But he will give the Hoosiers another talented outside shooter, someone who can also score around the basket as well if the opportunity presents itself.
Wilmont, for one, knows he'll have to help the freshman center along, but he also thinks he's ready for the challenge.
"I think he's ready," said Wilmont. "From the upperclassmen, guys like me and Strick, Marco, we just have to play through his mistakes. He's going to make mistakes in the game, but we have to walk him through everything, talk to him during the game, ‘come on, box out,' stuff like that, just to remind him. He'll be fine."
Allen Answers The Calls
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