Dontaie Allen became a fan favorite last season, and at times, a point of contention between the fans craving more playing time for the home state kid, and his coach, John Calipari. Allen’s minutes were a frequent talking point after many games and by the end of the season he had become a symbol of the growing rift between the fan base and some of Calipari’s coaching strategies, in this case an apparent favoritism toward higher ranked recruits.
A rehash then we’ll leave it alone, Allen played 30 minutes only twice all year and scored 23 points both times. Two players averaged 30 minutes per game and never scored 23, one never even got 15. Allen was also the best 3-point shooter on a team that needed 3-point shooting, and he ranked ninth in the rotation in minutes.
But that’s enough about past gripes. We’ve moved on and Calipari has rebuilt a good looking roster with the best staff in the game, and Allen never even got caught up in the “clutter” coming from his fans. When asked about any pressure last season, Allen said, “I was just playing my game. A lot of things could distract or get to certain people in that position, but me, I just kept my head down and kept working.”
It comes normal to him, he says. Working. Working hard.
“I’ve always prided myself on working hard and I continue to do that,” he explained.
After the season when there was speculation he would seek new opportunities where he could be a key piece of an offense, he was working, knowing his UK dream is far from done. Going somewhere else wasn’t an option, he admitted.
“The biggest thing for me was, I pride myself on working hard, I’m not a quitter by any means, so coming back was more like, what else do I have to add to my regiment? What do I have to do differently, whether it’s ball-handling, which I agreed on, or certain things I have to work on, and I acknowledge that.”
On Allen’s list of things to improve between now and next fall, his ball-handling and quickness are top priorities, but finding his confidence is of most importance.
“At the end of the day it comes down to confidence,” he said. “I wouldn’t say I was lacking confidence, but I think it’s something I’ve worked on all summer and I’m going to be more than great in my eyes this coming season in all aspects of my game.”
More than great? What’s more confident than that?
In order to find his more than greatness, Allen is hoping to shake the “catch-and-shoot-only” label that limits his game.
“I feel like I was definitely viewed as that, and I feel like that was needed out of me last season,” Allen said of his perceived limitations as a spot-up shooter. “I feel like with the shooters we have this season, I’ll be able to show more of my total game.”
Further proving his “head down and keep working” ways, Allen isn’t concerned about a crowded backcourt with all of the talent Calipari assembled this spring. He said TyTy Washington reminds him of Tyrese Maxey, he remembers how tough Sahvir Wheeler was at Georgia, CJ Fredrick is a fellow Kentucky high school star he followed, and he would even welcome Davion Mintz back at the expense of his own minutes.
“It’s exciting, having more shooters, more people that do those things. Obviously I was that kind of player last year, that’s what we needed on the team, so I can show more of my total game and give what I can to allow our teams to win games.”
The upcoming season will be Allen’s first normal season in Lexington. He redshirted as a freshman in 2019-20 as he recovered from a knee injury that cut his prominent high school career short, and he couldn’t even enjoy an NCAA Tournament run from the bench because COVID ended everything abruptly. Then we all know how last season went both on and off the court, so it’s easy to understand his excitement for a third try.
“I’m so excited. Two years ago I couldn’t play, but I witnessed every single game, packed out, great games, wins. I can’t wait to get back to that and I’m going to be contributing on this team. I’m not hurt anymore, God willing, so I’m so excited.”
More from Allen and his excitement in our summer conversation: