Allen's choice: UM

Will Allen's final two choices to play college baseball were both postseason programs who win lots of games and compete in the same conference. One main difference was proximity.

Allen chose Ole Miss over Florida. The talented 6-foot-3, 215-pound catcher saw positives in both situations. But he saw more in Ole Miss.

So Allen, from Gainesville, Fla., and whose father, Bill, played football for the Gators, stepped outside the comfort zone, outside his home area, and chose to play for the Rebels.

"I visited Ole Miss earlier this season for the Alabama series and fell in love with it," said Allen, who was also recruited by Mississippi State, Tennessee, Central Florida, and others. "Everything about it was the perfect fit for me. I love it there and everything about Oxford and Ole Miss."

Distance wasn't that much of a factor either, since the Allens are used to baseball games a long way from home. Allen just returned from USA's Tournament of the Stars in Cary, N.C.

"My parents and I talked, and they said no matter how far away I played, they'd make the effort to be there," Allen said of his dad and also his mom, Ginny, a former standout basketball and softball player who once scored 35 points in three quarters of a basketball game (before the 3-point arc, according to Will).

"We figure it's about 650 miles (from Gainesville to Oxford)," he added, "so we'll still make it work."

But the Florida ties are strong. Still Allen said he had the support of those who mean the most to him.

"They all want me to be someplace where I'll be happy and that I feel is best for me," said the rising senior at Buchholz High School. "As soon as I got an offer from Florida, I am sure most just assumed I'd go there. Ultimately it was my decision, and I'm so very happy with it."

Allen batted .395 as a junior with seven home runs, 10 doubles, and 30 RBI. His high school team made the Regional finals for the third straight year (final eight in its class in the state). He also threw out 10 runners at second during his team's 17-13 season. After his sophomore year, Allen was named first-team all-state in Class 6A.

In one playoff game this season, Allen was 4-for-5 with a home run, two doubles, and six RBI.

Allen might have been his team's MVP had it not been for one other teammate. LeVon Washington, Buchholz's center fielder, was a first-round draft pick this month by the Tampa Bay Rays, the 30th overall pick.

Allen throws right and bats right, and he's in the process of becoming a switch hitter.

"Maybe that's something for the future," he said, admitting he does take some cuts now and then from the left side.

An athletic, versatile player, Allen was a first and third baseman until he was moved to catcher in ninth grade. He also steps up to lead his team every day.

"I'm still learning," he said. "My arm strength is a definite plus. People tell me I have a great arm, and I believe it's getting even better. I have a great relationship with all the pitchers. I like to manage the staff and believe I do that well. I like being a leader. That's a big thing for me. I like calling the game (as a catcher) and knowing that's my team out there. I feel my bat is a strength. But I want to get better at every aspect of my game."

Playing for a former catcher in Coach Mike Bianco was a plus, and also former catcher Carl Lafferty being on the UM staff was a positive.

"I'm definitely excited about that," Allen said. " I wanted to go somewhere there was a catching coach and someone familiar with the position. That was a part of my decision, and I want to learn everything I can."

Allen is playing this summer with the Orlando Scorpions, along with another Ole Miss recruit, RHP/OF Casey Mulholland of Bradenton, Fla.

Allen is traveling to tournaments and games all summer, from Minnesota to Georgia and throughout his homestate, getting ready for his senior year of high school and on to Ole Miss.

His family and friends are there to support him through it all.

"My parents are my role models," said Allen, "and I appreciate them supporting me in everything."

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