Duke unheralded freshman Grayson Allen had a “coming out party” in the NCAA national championship game.
Allen, the least known of Duke’s four freshmen, scored 16 points as the Blue Devils earned their fifth national title with a come-from-behind victory over the Wisconsin Badgers (68-63), Monday night. Allen came up big when Duke needed someone the most.
With Duke trailing 48-39, Allen scored eight straight points over a one-minute and 10-second period to get the Blue Devils within 51-47. Allen’s layup with 5:29 left gave Duke its first lead since late in the first half.
Allen finished the game 5-of-8 from the field, including 5-of-5 from the charity stripe, in 21 minutes. The 16 points was 12 points more than he averaged all year. It was also just Allen’s third game seeing more than 20 minutes of action and fourth time he reached double figures this season, according to Andrew Carter of the Charlotte Observer.
While a lot of people might not have known who Allen was before the Final Four, it is not like he is devoid of talent. The 6-foot-4 Jacksonville, Florida, native was a McDonald’s All-American last year and a consensus five star recruit. He also won the McDonald’s All-America dunk contest.
Duke came in the season loaded with talent. Just in the backcourt, Grayson had four players ahead of him on the depth chart at the start of the season — Quinn Cook, Tyus Jones, Matt Jones and Rasheed Sulaimon. Then you include Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Amile Jefferson and Marshall Plumlee that didn’t leave much playing time for Allen. In fact, he didn’t appear in four of Duke’s first 20 games and saw less than five minutes of court time in half of the other 16 games.
Allen likely wouldn’t have received as much time in the championship game as he did, had Winslow or Okafor not been in foul trouble. Or if Sulaimon was still on the team.
To Allen’s credit, he stayed ready and produced when his name was finally called. He was the Blue Devils best practice player this year, pestering his teammates so much that he is known as “Deebo” by his teammates and coach Mike Krzyzewski has jokingly called Allen an “a**hole” according to Winslow.
“He’s worked his butt off,” Duke assistant and former Blue Devil player Jon Scheyer told Carter. “I mean, he has worked so hard. And coming in here, there are times when you had to kick him out of the gym, just because he’s in there so long and you want him to get some rest.”
Allen was named to the All-Final Four tournament team along with Tyus Jones and Winslow. Allen finished the two games averaging 12.5 points and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 50 percent from the field (14-of-28) and 10-of-11 (90.9 percent) from the free throw line.
With Cook graduating and Okafor, Tyus Jones along with Winslow possibly declaring for the draft, the Blue Devils could be Allen’s team next year. As Duke doesn’t have a stellar recruiting class at least yet, Center Chase Jeter and guard Luke Kennard are the only players from the class of 2015 that have signed with the team.
[photo by Pool/Getty Image]