Jan. 16, 2013
BELLINGHAM, Wash. -
By Alex Bigelow, WWU Sports Information Intern
When Western Washington University senior guard John Allen stepped away from the bright lights of Duke University's historic Cameron Indoor Stadium, it was clear he had made an impression.
Whether it was his 17 points and four steals or his strong command of the Vikings' offense in the exhibition loss, Allen caught the eye of the winningest coach in Division I collegiate men's basketball history, the Blue Devils' Mike Krzyzewski.
"Their kid [John] Allen's going to be one of the best players or is one of the best players in the country," Krzyzewski told media members following Duke's win on Oct. 27. "You're not going to stop a kid like that ..."
Allen has made a habit of impressing people with his play, given that he was voted the Great Northwest Athletic Conference pre-season Player of the Year and was a Division II Bulletin Super 16 pick.
Currently, the two-time second-team GNAC all-star leads the undefeated Vikings (14-0, GNAC 5-0) in points per game at 16.9 and is shooting a team-best 87.5 percent at the free throw line (28-of-32). He also is second on the squad in assists at 4.0.
Dealing with the pre-season accolades and the lofty comments of Krzyzewski hasn't been easy, Allen said.
"The standards and what you're expected changes a lot when you don't have a stellar performance or you don't make all your shots," said the 2012 West Regional Most Outstanding Player.
And, in typical fashion, Allen pointed to his all-star cast of teammates, which includes senior forward Paul Jones and junior guard Richard Woodworth, who have taken off some of the pressure placed on him with their stellar play.
"The odds are always going to be in our favor because there are so many talented, unselfish guys," Allen said. "We were able to do that last year when we didn't have to count on one guy to always play well to win. We don't depend on anyone...It's always going to be someone's night."
As the floor general and primary ball handler, Allen, a co-captain for the nationally third-ranked Vikings, has shown improvement in his decision making over his three years at WWU, according to head coach Tony Dominguez.
"He's a calming force on offense for us," Dominguez said. "At the end of games, it's really tough for his defender to take the ball from him, and if he can make the right read, he's getting the guys easy shots."
A transfer in 2010 from Washington State, Allen is now directing an offense that ranks sixth nationally in Division II at 88.3 points per game.
Allen has shown an ability to score late in games, having 15 points in the second half against Concordia St. Paul (Minn.) on Nov. 23, including eight in the final six minutes as WWU pulled out an early season win, 80-76.
"You have to be real crisp in the executing of the plays, especially late in games," Allen said. "Even if we're not up 10 or 20, if it's a close game, we know we can close games out."
Allen's ability to shoot well from the free throw line - he's a career 89.9 percent free throw shooter - is a huge asset near the end of big games.
But it's not only his ability to shoot well at the free throw line that makes Allen dangerous. Instead, it's his aggressive style of play that opens up the floor for other players like senior center Chris Mitchell.
"He's always aggressive, smartly aggressive," Mitchell said. "When John is playing confident and shooting good shots and setting other people up, it gets our whole offense going ... When he plays well, it translates down to me and (forward) Austin (Bragg)."
Seattle Pacific head coach Ryan Looney said that Allen's confidence is what makes him and WWU a very dangerous team moving forward.
"He's extremely gifted on offense, and it makes him a tough cover any time you play," Looney said. "He's proven from the 3-point line that he's one of the best shooters in the GNAC, and he's more than capable of beating you off the dribble which makes it a tough assignment for anyone."
Confidence, Allen admits, is something he has never lacked.
And someday Allen, armed with that positive attitude and an inherent skill to make an impression on the most influential people in the sport, looks to continue playing basketball as a professional.
"To be honest, I think I can play with anyone," said Allen, who was the 2012 West Regional Most Outstanding Player. "I need an opportunity, and if given that I can play. The goal is to at least get (overseas) professionally... but we've just got to finish this season out strong and if we handle our business, everything else will take care of itself."
Allen currently has 1,134 career points and ranks 16th among the school's all-time leaders, one of only five WWU players to reach 1,000 while playing just three seasons. Last year, he scored a career-high 43 points, the second-highest total in school history, in a home win over Simon Fraser.
WWU is riding a 41-year best 20-game winning streak dating back to last year's national championship run. Allen has had double-figure points in 11 of 14 games this season with a high of 32 versus Central Oklahoma.