West Virginia's physically imposing swing guard knows the importance of defense to Bob Huggins and the Mountaineer program. He's heard the comments of his high school coach, who indicated that his defensive effort would be critical in his ascension to the next level of basketball. He knows the reputation of WVU's tough practices and emphasis on play when the other team has the ball. He's saying all the right things, but he also knows that the time to produce -- to turn those words into actions -- is upon him.
When Allen committed to WVU, he indicated that he was aware of everything about Press Virginia, and that he would have to ramp up his execution on the defensive end. He's also aware that talking the talk does nothing in terms of getting better, of showing all-out effort on every defensive possession. Prior to his MVP showing in the Scott Brown All-Star Classic in Beckley, he expounded on his approach and plan to become the sort of defensive player that earns minutes.
When asked about the difficulty of working on such items in high school, Allen was in an no-excuses mode.
"That would kind of be like an excuse. It's not tough to do. You should be able to get up and play defense. I think at West Virginia that's the priority to get on the court, so it's not going to be easy to do, but it's going to be easy to try. I have been taking the weight room really seriously, working on my agility and on my foot speed when I am working on my drills and skills. I have to do those at game speed. But at the end of the day it's mostly just effort. That's what defense mostly, is -- effort."
While the All-Star game was a mostly defense-free environment, Allen did have three fouls in the game, with two of those coming on the defensive end. That at least provided an indication that defense has been on his mind this summer. It was also a focus for him as he watched the Mountaineers this past year. He projected himself into the WVU lineup and pictured what his contributions might be.
"I definitely plug myself right in there on one of the wings, helping out the guys, getting the ball in the hoop and wreaking havoc on the defensive end. Those guys are fun to watch," he noted. "I picture myself doing the same thing all of those guys do. you look up to them, but they are going to be my teammates, so you start trying to figure out where you fit in and where to find your niche. I watched them and studied them a lot. Hopefully, or at least I think, I am ready. You just try to prepare the best you can and be ready for the moment when it gets there."
Allen has a bit of press history in his recent experience, noting that both Boys Town High School and his AAU team dabbled in it, although nothing approaching WVU's use.
"We pressed on and off in high school in AAU, and it looks fun," he said of West Virginia's press. "Those guys play their hearts out. I can't wait for it.
“I feel like I have a leg up on a lot of other freshmen around the country,” Allen said of his size and physical strength, which was obvious during his play in the game. Thickly built across the shoulders and torso, he uses those qualities to help on drives to the hoop. It will also be of benefit defensively, and could allow him to match-up with a wide variety of opponents. “As far as strength, that is definitely something where I feel like I’m at a high level.”
Allen played two years of high school basketball in Arizona before transferring to Boys Town High School in Nebraska. That change of scenery provided a wake-up call for him and his approach to the game, and also helped prepare him for the upcoming transition.
"My step-grandfather lives in Nebraska, but it is kind of far from where my high school is. It was tough getting adjusted, but I just had to suck it up. This has definitely prepared me for Morgantown in being away from my family. I am ready to do that."