He then transferred to Division II Western Washington, where his production drove some Cougar fans crazy.
That's because he was a scoring and assist machine who earned first-team All-America honors. He led the Vikings to the national championship his junior year and the final four last season. Along the way, Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski called Allen "one of the best players in the country."
For many Cougar fans, he was a good one who got away, but with Reggie Moore's unexpected departure last year, Allen's absence added to the grief of WSU's point guard problems.
I bumped into John on a neighborhood basketball court two weeks ago and followed up with some "youthful questions" as part of a semi-regular column that asks past and present Cougar players questions that adults might not think to ask ...
1. Why did you transfer from WSU to Western?
John Allen: I loved my experience in Pullman. It was tough to leave because I enjoyed Pullman and thought there would be an opportunity for an increased role in the future. At the time, Western seemed like the right place for me. It was an opportunity to come in and play right away for a well-respected program and conference.
2. When Reggie Moore was dismissed from the team last year, were you thinking you could be the starting point guard for the Cougs if you had stayed?
JA: Reg is a good friend of mine. It hurt hearing about the situation. I think (Mike) Ladd and the guys came in and did a great job last year. We had two great years at Western so I honestly didn't give it much thought.
3. You played for Tony Bennett, Ken Bone and Brad Jackson in your college career. How did their styles differ, and who was your favorite to play for?
JA: Well, I spent the most time (three seasons) with Coach Jackson so I had more time to get to know him and built a more personal relationship with him. All three coaches have been very successful in their careers and understand what it takes to win. The biggest difference was probably in the players they recruited. At Western we shot from the perimeter so the guys we recruited were shooters. Coach Bennett was a defensive coach and Coach Bone was kind of in the middle of that. One thing about Coach Bennett that stood out was his passion. He would go to war with his guys if he needed to. Coach Bone had a fire in him too. Coach Jackson was a little more laid back – we would call him "Chill."
4. There's a rumor that in a pickup game one time you tried so hard to knock a ball out of Aron Baynes' hands that he sprained his shoulder hanging on to it. Is that true and if so, did Aron try to beat you up?
JA: Yeah, I reached in on Aron my first summer in Pullman and he injured his shoulder. He fell to the ground and was in pain. He was definitely upset – when I reached down to see if he was Ok he flinched at me. But Baynes is a team guy to the utmost. I think anyone at the time would have been upset..
ALLEN SHOWN LAST SEASON IN GAME AGAINST DUKE.
I want to say he was like 250 at the time and I was 190. Regardless, I would have needed some assistance from some fellow freshmen like (DeAngelo) Casto and (James) Watson. We all left for home a couple days later before school started a month later. I was worried about the next time I saw him because he was pretty mad. But he came up and bear hugged me. I was kind of avoiding him to be honest because I didn't know if he still had hard feelings. He's a cool guy though. He told me not to worry about it.
6. While you were at Washington State, what was the best team the Cougars faced and what made them so good? Same question for your time at Western.
JA: We played Pitt in a preseason game when they had DeJuan Blair my freshman year. They were top five in the country. Dejuan was impressive. We should have upset them but couldn't finish at the end. At Western, we played a talented Duke team and played them well. It's tough competing when they shoot 40 free throws to our 10. Duke is Duke. Any Coach K team is going to be well prepared.
7. If you had one guy to build a team around, who would you choose -- Klay Thompson, Brock Motum, Aron Baynes, Kyle Weaver, Derrick Low or Taylor Rochestie?
JA: That's tough. Klay is a stud and future NBA all-star. I never played much with Low or Weaver but I'd take Rochestie with the best of them. The way he conducted himself and dedicated himself to the game was so professional. He was a true leader and I was fortunate to learn from him for a year. Brock and Baynes are also very talented. I don't think you could go wrong with any of them.
8. When you and Klay came to WSU together as freshmen, could you tell he was destined to be an NBA star?
JA: Yeah, we all knew pretty quick that he was going to be special. I remember my dad sitting in on an open gym and saying he was going to be a great player in the NBA … What people don't know about Klay is his uncanny ability to shred in SKATE on the Xbox. He and (Michael) Harthun were impressive.
9. In Klay's three seasons at WSU he shot 39 percent from three-point range and in your three seasons at Western you shot 39.7 percent from the arc. Who would win a best-out-of-50 contest between you two?
I dunno. I think it would depend on the day. But I do know Klay doesn't want to see me in a game of floaters. He knows about my floater game. #TeamFloater
10. You won a national championship at Western as a junior, and then as a senior you were named first-team All-American. Did you ever dream of that kind of success? Can you believe it now?
The past two years at Western were crazy. I had great players around me. As a young kid I think all ballplayers dream of winning it all. As for the personal accomplishments I think it just says a lot about my team. You can't get awards like that on a bad team. To me they were more of a team award than anything.
11. You're training to play professionally. What teams in the NBA or overseas are you hearing from, and have you had any tryouts?
I worked out with the Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers during pre-draft workouts and Portland is still looking at me. I've also been hearing from teams abroad. Hopefully I'll end up where I need to be.
12. How closely do you follow the Cougs and how well do you think they'll do this season?
I keep up with Cougar football and hoops. It's been nice watching the football team play thus far. It will be interesting to see how Cougar hoops will do this year. It is going to be tough to replace Brock but from what I hear Coach Bone is bringing in some talented new guys.
13. Coach Bone says the Cougars will be playing a lot of full-court or three-quarter pressure defense this year. As a player, what are the challenges to pulling that off over the course of a full season?
It's tough to press at that level because everyone is so talented and well prepared. The team has to be deep because guys get tired putting full court pressure on throughout a game and the season. I've never really played for a team that used full court pressure as a main defensive strategy so I wouldn't know much about the physical toll it takes.
14. What's the best piece of advice you've ever received from a coach?
I've had so many amazing coaches throughout my years but I'd say it came from my trainer, Troy Miles, a former high school head coach and former player at Nevada and Idaho State. He approaches the game from a geometric standpoint. He always preaches about playing "virtual." He teaches the the martial arts of basketball. The two things from him that always stick with me are E5M and CQI. They're acronyms for succeeding in life by finding ways to get better "Every 5 Minutes" and to strive for "Continuous Quality Improvement."
15. What is your favorite memory from your time in Pullman?
I had so many great memories in Pullman. One of my favorites was storming the field when we beat the Huskies in the Apple Cup in 2008. It was unforgettable. I always wanted to rush the field and what better way than with a last-second field goal to tie it and then another to win in overtime in the Apple Cup. Go Cougs!
Ryan Witter (pictured at left with John Allen) is a high school freshman from Seattle and lifelong Cougar fan whose dad co-founded Cougfan.com two months after he was born. Ryan is a top-notch student and a basketball player.