Allen's persistence pays off

The class of 2005 is expected to be one of the best overall recruiting classes ever seen in the state of Washington, but it might be some time before prep hoop fans ever see something like what happened with the class of 2000. 2000 wasn't as deep overall, but had four of the top eight point guards on the entire West Coast. One has gone on to the NBA, and two others are finishing out their careers after transfers. Only one remains - Curtis Allen.

Allen is the only one that has stayed the course. Teammate C.J. Massingale transferred from Washington to Metro State in Denver. Lake Washington's Brian Morrison, who originally played at North Carolina, is playing out his time at UCLA. And Blaine's Luke Ridnour chose an early exit at Oregon, opting for the lucre that comes with playing for the Seattle Sonics.

Curtis' persistence has paid dividends for the Huskies this year, but will he be handsomely rewarded with a trip to the NCAA tournament? That's yet to be determined, but Allen's leadership has been just one reason for UW's remarkable mis-season turnaround. A win over the number-one Stanford Cardinal on national television today just might give the hoop dawgs the seal of approval to get them over the hump.

"This is big time," Curtis told about what is going to be arguably the biggest home game Washington has ever played, especially with the stakes involved. "We're going into my senior night going up against the number-one team in the country who just won one amazing game. It's going to be tough game, but we're going to come out and fight for it."

'Fight' is Allen's operative word, yet it shouldn't conjure up images of the 6-1 guard from Tacoma taking on guys twice his size in back alleys. It's a word that encapsulates Curtis' full four-year stint wearing the purple and gold. 'Fight' for Allen not only means fighting the impulse to give up when times were tough under Bob Bender, but also fighting the impulse when things got tough with those closest to him on the court.

"It was tough to think about but we kept on fighting," Curtis said of the Huskies' 0-5 start in league play this season. "Our coaches told us that if we could just get one win that we could get it rolling and we did."

Allen didn't expect the road to Saturday's showdown with Stanford to be easy, but there have been more stones in his passway than for others. In Curtis' first year out of Wilson High in Tacoma, he scored in double-digits in half the conference games he played in.

In 2001-2002 it got even better for the man known for his quicks, crossover and streaky shooting ability. Allen had back-to-back games against UNLV and San Diego with 21 and 27 points, respectively. It's hard to imagine a career-high happening as a sophomore, but that's the case with Curtis. He started 22 of 29 games that season and averaged 12 points a game, second only to Doug Wrenn that year. Allen also led the Dawgs in assists, three-pointers and steals that season.

When Lorenzo Romar replaced Bender as Washington's head coach two seasons ago, it was a whole new ballgame for Allen, yet he accepted his role while others, like classmate Massingale, decided to take their ball and go elsewhere. It's Curtis that helped to define early on his role, and it's become a touchstone of Romar's blueprint for creating a winning tradition at Montlake.

It's a rare occurance when minutes and points actually decrease as experience is gained, but such is the case with Allen. But for the one player on roster that came in just one year short of Washington's last NCAA tournament appearance, Curtis is willing to do anything - run towels, give water, pick up pom-poms - to make sure his career doesn't end up known for not making the dance. And he's accepted, and even embraced, his role in Romar's grand design.

"I think the most important thing for me right now is just be a leader, keep everybody's spirits high and just make sure I'm positive in everything I do," Curtis said. "I think we put ourselves in a great position to get there (NCAA tournament, and hopefully we'll get there."

And on Saturday the spotlight will deservedly be on Allen, as the Huskies' lone senior.

He's earned it, the hard way.

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