By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
LEXINGTON — Dontaie Allen hasn’t been fully cleared to return to the court, but he’s making progress to join his teammates in the near future.
Allen’s recovery from a knee injury and a broken collar bone he sustained in an automobile accident last April, has been lengthy but the reigning Kentucky Mr. basketball is taking it one step at a time. Earlier this month he said it could be mid-to-late November before he can join the team on a full-time basis.
“We’ll see about (returning to the court) as far as how I am moving along,” Allen said. “I’ll be on the sideline working with my trainer and we will work on cuts, jumping running short distances and things like that. It’s getting a lot better.”
The former Pendleton County standout tore his ACL 13 games into his senior season and pent most of last year rehabilitating his injured knee. He averaged 42.9 points per game during the first 11 games last year. Despite a shortened senior campaign, Allen finished his prep career with 3.225 points, ranking him No. 11 in state history.
Although the injuries dealt a setback, Allen has experienced a growth spurt.
“I think that anytime things like that happen with a car wreck and being off the court watching games, I think you grow on and off the court,” he said.
Allen also has learned what it takes to be successful by watching his teammates from the sideline. During the summer, Allen mostly worked on his shooting and dribbling and avoided contact as much as possible.
For Allen, the entire ordeal has been a learning experience transitioning to the college game from a different angle.
“I think there are definitely things you can learn from being off the court,” he said. “You can learn different moves. Some of the freshmen got thrown into it, learning from Cal and how he wants everybody to play. That’s probably a good thing with me. I might be behind from being off the court, but you can basically see how everybody is moving and that can definitely help your game.”
Some of his teammates have noticed his desire to get back on the floor and have been impressed with Allen’s work ethic, including freshman classmate Keion Brooks.
“His work ethic is tremendous,” Brooks said. “I’ve seen Dontaie in this gym at 2 or 3 in the morning just working as hard as he can to get back.”
Point guard Ashton Hagans agreed.
“You come in here at 5:30 in the morning and he’ll be in here running up and down getting up shots with a brace on,” Hagans said.
Although not at full strength, Allen has provided a solid support system behind the scenes for the Wildcats.
“I can assist this team while I am off the court,” Allen said. “I just need to keep being the guy in the locker room and things like that. (I can help by) just talking to them. If they’re getting down on themselves by Cal getting on them, I just pat them and let them know everything is good and just go.”
Although his collegiate career has gotten off to a slow start, he’s happy being in Lexington and wants to inspire others in the state to dare to dream.
“Inspiring the youth with that,” he said. “That’s a big thing for me and (help) pave the way for more people.”
Players with the same mentality as Allen are the type of talent Calipari is looking for when it comes to instate recruiting.
“This is really hard, and you have to want this as bad as we want you,” he said. “I am always looking for guys who have always dreamed of playing at Kentucky. Then I’ve got to find out if they’re good enough. Because they may be 100,000 of those, but there are only three or four that are good enough to really be here to make that work.”
Once he’s cleared to play, Allen intends to make the most of his opportunity.
“I want to do all I can to help us win games — make shots, defend and things like that,” Allen said.
* * *
Gametracker: Georgetown College at Kentucky (exhibition), 5 p.m. Sunday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at email@example.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.