Duke’s Grayson Allen isn’t squirming when the subject comes up. He knows any NBA team will ask, so he’s owning it.
As in, how do you explain the pattern of tripping opponents that got you suspended as a Blue Devil?
“You have to address it, for sure. It’s something that comes from my competitiveness,” Allen said of the perception he was a dirty player at times over four Duke seasons. “Competitiveness that was pointed in the wrong direction and went over the line. It’s obviously something I needed to work on and address. It’s something I’ve gotten a lot better with.”
It’s a balance, he added: As in, don’t become so defined by your past that it turns you passive or self-conscious.
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“It’s not something you want to put away. So you learn to use it for your team,” Allen said of being fiery. “That’s what I’ve been saying (in job interviews). I think the NBA likes competitive guys.”
For player who might not be a first-round pick in the June 21 draft, Allen, a 6-5 combo guard drew a huge crowd in the media interviews Thursday afternoon.
Must have been a combination of his highs and lows (including coming off the bench as a freshman to play a huge role in beating Wisconsin for the national championship) and the rarity of a high-profile player who stuck around four seasons.
It’s reasonable to speculate that averaging 21 points as a sophomore and winning All-American status might have been his best platform into the NBA.
Allen says otherwise, and that how this ultimately will work out is for the best.
“I don’t think it hurt me at all” exhausting his college eligibility, Allen said. “I think I’m much more ready as a player. I think this year I improved a lot of things, especially being a point guard, even with Trevon (Duval) on the team.
“My assist numbers improved as I got to play with two bigs, who I could throw the ball up to. I got used to throwing a lot of lobs to them. I got used to finding shooters like Gary (Trent Jr.) and cutters like Tre.”
Bridging one-and-done classes
Allen has been the bridge between multiple Duke recruiting classes loaded with one-and-done NBA prospects. He believes that raises his basketball resume: Adapting to different special teammates' skills, as he'll need to in the NBA.
“Each year I played at Duke, I had to shoot from different spots. That makes me more ready. I have no idea where I’m going to end up, so it’s important I can adjust to any situation.”
Allen chose not to play in the five-on-five games at the combine. He jokes that after four seasons, there is more than enough videotape around to display his skill set. However, it’s the physical testing here that he believes could be crucial to his status in the upcoming draft.
Allen wonders if NBA scouts grasp his athletic ability, beyond his skills as a shooter and playmaker. Devin Booker, now a star for the Phoenix Suns, felt similarly when he showed up at the combine after one season at Kentucky — that he needed to prove via the physical drills that he was more than a hired jump shot.
Allen got it done: He exceeded 40 inches in the vertical leap by half an inch and his lane agility time — 10.31 seconds — was best among those tested Thursday.
Duke coach Mike Kryzyzewski employed a lot of zone defense last season, which would have been unthinkable for him 20 years ago. Allen wanted to snuff out the perception his defense needs to be hidden in a zone scheme.
“With stuff like the lane agility (test), it’s important to show people that I do have the capability to defend at the next level and keep guys in front,” Allen said. “That’s a question (how he’ll hold up in man-to-man defense) that a lot of teams will have.”
Allen kept being asked Thursday about the Duke shooting guards who preceded him, such as Trajan Langdon and J.J. Redick. Allen said he constantly asks Philadelphia 76ers star Redick for advice, and would love to ever be as good as Redick at moving without the ball.
But there’s a difference between the two in raw athleticism. Allen made sure he noted that in conclusion Thursday:
“I joke all the time about the J.J. (comparison). I don’t think J.J. jumps 40 inches.”