Duke counting on more from Allen after Final Four breakout
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — Grayson Allen is still getting used to all this attention.
He burst into an overnight celebrity as the unlikely hero of Duke’s latest national championship run.
Six months later, the sophomore guard is adjusting to yet another role. He’s a veteran hoping to lead the Blue Devils to title No. 6.
Allen said Tuesday that he “definitely got recognized a little bit more solely off those last two games in the Final Four.”
Allen barely played at times during the regular season, averaging about four points before breaking out on college basketball’s biggest stage.
He scored 16 points — and came up with the biggest hustle play of the night — in the victory over Wisconsin that delivered the program’s fifth national title.
Now comes the latest twist for Allen, a former McDonald’s All-American who has gone from bench player to overnight sensation to voice of experience.
Of the four players who made up Duke’s talented freshman class last season, Allen is the only one who’s still there.
“I think there’s definitely a change in mentality, as far as the confidence you get as the year goes on last year,” Allen said. “Last year, when I was put into more situations at the end, it was because my confidence was up and I was playing better. So coming off of that, this year, when you go from being a guy playing limited minutes to playing big minutes off the bench, then your confidence goes up.”
The Blue Devils are counting on him for even more this year.
Big man Jahlil Okafor is no longer around, having jumped to the NBA after one year. So did Justise Winslow and Final Four Most Outstanding Player Tyus Jones.
Only four scholarship players are back from that team, and these Blue Devils won’t or play much like their predecessor.
Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski says the strength of this team won’t be in the post — as it was last year with Okafor — but in its perimeter scoring and ability to drive to the basket.
Not coincidentally, those are some of the things Allen does best.
“He wasn’t a kid that averaged four points a game in practice — in other words, he had a really good ego throughout and it kept building,” Krzyzewski said of Allen, who he says was propelled by “the momentum of accomplishment.”
Allen’s signature play came with the Blue Devils in deep trouble in that title game. He beat Traveon Jackson to a critical loose ball, and that sparked the rally that sent Duke to the title.
Krzyzewski loved that play so much, he created a team award in its honor — the “One Shining Moment Award,” to be handed out only during a Duke championship season.
The first recipient of that award was, obviously, Allen, and he isn’t about to hustle any less this time around.
“I think the biggest carryover that I can control is just my mind and
how I approach the game,” Allen said. “I’m definitely going to approach this year with the same aggression that I had toward the end of last year — that same confidence and that same attacking mindset.”
Follow Joedy McCreary on Twitter at http://twitter.com/joedyap