By LARRY VAUGHT
The first time Billy Stafford saw Dontaie Allen play middle school basketball he knew he was watching an “athletic and skilled” player.
Stafford is the Nicholas County middle school boys head basketball coach and assistant high school coach. Allen plays for Pendleton County and will be signing with the University of Kentucky next month after giving his verbal commitment to coach John Calipari in the summer almost immediately after he was offered a scholarship.
“The first time I thought he would be really special was in the freshman district tournament against Nicholas County. He was a seventh-grader and put on a show,” Stafford said. “The next year as an eighth-grader he played a huge part in Pendleton beating Harrison County for the 38th district championship. After that I believe everyone knew he would be a special player.”
Allen’s recruitment blew up during the summer as he got scholarship offers from Louisville, Florida, Clemson, Auburn, Illinois, Western Kentucky, Dayton, Xavier, West Virginia, Purdue, Iowa State, Nevada, Eastern Kentucky, Morehead, Northern Kentucky, Pittsburgh, Saint Louis, Tennessee, Winthrop, Virginia Tech, Vanderbilt and Oklahoma.
None of that really surprised Stafford after watching Allen for the last five years.
“I think what has been the most impressive to me is his ability to make his teammates better. He is very unselfish for a player that can score at will. He passes just as good as he can score,” Stafford said.
The 6-7 Allen scored more points — 1,019 — than any other player in the state last season while averaging 31.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. He shot 59.1 percent from the field, including 39.6 percent from 3-point range. He was one of three juniors to earn first-team all-state honors in 2018.
Yet despite those numbers and bevy of scholarship offers, Stafford says one of the best words to describe Allen is humble.
“For a kid with his talent, you don’t see the trash talking, the attitude. He is very quiet,” Stafford said. “He has always been polite to the coaches on the Nicholas staff. He does his talking on the court.”
Allen admits one of his role models when he was young was Mason County’s Darius Miller, another 10th Region player who went to UK to play and is now in the NBA. Stafford says Allen’s signing with UK is a sense of pride for the entire region.
“I’m excited. I think nowadays to say you coached against a player going to one of the most dominating schools in college basketball is rare,” Stafford said. “Now do we want to beat him when he comes to our place on Dec. 4, yes we do. I think coaches will want to do their best to stop him but when all said and done every 10th Region coach will want him to succeed at UK.”
Stafford feels Allen needs to improve his outside shot and strength even more before getting to UK even though he quickly notes Allen’s shot has “improved greatly” the last few years.
“When he is hitting, you watch out. He is hard to stop,” Stafford said. “He has always been small framed but I believe when he hits campus that will change. With what UK has done to the likes of Nick Richards, Wenyen Gabriel and P.J. Washington, I have no doubt he will get stronger.
“I think once he gets to Kentucky, of course, the competition may be faster, stronger and some more talented but I don’t see that stopping him. There were people doubting if Dominique Hawkins, Darius Miller and Derek Willis could play for Cal at UK. Probably some will doubt Allen but I think he will do exactly as those guys did and succeed.”
Pendleton will play at Nicholas County Dec. 4 after facing Marshall County in the Marshall County Hoopfest Dec. 1. Allen’s team opens the season Nov. 26 at Williamstown before hosting Calvary Christian Nov. 27 and playing at Scott Nov. 29.
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