In what has come to be defined as the “One-and-Done” era of college basketball, whenever a significant player consents to play a fourth season we are treated to another round of tired jokes about how this guy once roomed at Five-Star with Michael Jordan or has been in college since Bill Raftery still was a coach.
In the case of Duke’s Grayson Allen, though, it really does feel like he’s been there that long.
Allen still has a year of eligibility remaining, though, and he will spend it with the Blue Devils.
“I’m a firm believer that when something feels right, you go with it,” Allen said in the university release announcing his plans. “The chance to play with next year’s team just felt right.”
Every college basketball player making this decision should do what he believes is best for his circumstance, but it’s essential that any true NBA prospect who commits to another year in college understands that doing so without committing to significant improvement is a mistake.
The empty analysis that NBA scouts “pick your game apart” the more years you play in college —and I’ve heard that from Hall of Fame college coaches, not just Twitter heroes —has been proven a lie by the experiences of Buddy Hield, Denzel Valentine, Frank Kaminsky and Willie Cauley-Stein, among others. But if you continue without improvement they’re likely to suspect something is amiss.
What makes Allen’s case interesting is that his need to improve is not limited only to basketball matters.
Areas he must be better:
1. Perimeter shooting. As Allen became more reliant on his perimeter shooting during his junior year, he became worse at it. The 3-pointer represented nearly two-thirds of his field goal attempts in 2016-17, compared to far less than half the prior year. His accuracy dropped from .417 to .365.
NBA teams are going to want to see him in the .400 neighborhood once again, indicating he can provide a true perimeter threat in their league.
2. Defense. Many have written off Allen for good as a poor defender, which is an obvious mistake given his length and the uncommon strength in his hands. Like many gifted offensive players, Allen has gotten by on defense because of what he has provided with his scoring. But it’s time for him to use his experience and knowledge to learn to better cut off driving angles and read opponents’ intent.
3. Maturity. This is what separates Allen from pretty much every other player who has returned for an extra season of college basketball. His multiple incidents of over-the-edge competitive behavior, which ultimately led to a suspension last December, must be consigned to the past. He needs a drama-free year. No trips. No gifs.
I gave a speech about sportsmanship to faculty and athletes Tuesday at Bluffton University, a Division III school in northwest Ohio. It was to my great discredit that I talked for 15 or minutes about a variety of glaring instances of poor on-field behavior, including soccer great Luis Suarez biting three opponents and others in his sports faking injuries —without ever bringing up what occurred with Allen over the past two seasons.
The truth is, I could have spent my entire talk on Allen.
If he wants a bright future in the sport, Allen has to convince everyone to focus again on the player whose ability to drive the basketball led the 2015 Blue Devils past Wisconsin in the NCAA Championship game and subsequently resulted in 252 free throws and a 21.6-point scoring average in 2015-16.
In announcing he intends to play another season at Duke, Grayson Allen essentially became a senior. Now, it’s up to him to behave like one.