By LARRY VAUGHT
He didn’t get a chance to play in a game but that doesn’t mean Dontaie Allen was unhappy with his freshman season at Kentucky under John Calipari.
“He said it was a great learning experience,” said Keaton Belcher, Allen’s coach at Pendleton County.
Allen was leading the state in scoring his high school senior season when he injured his knee in late December. Belcher actually thought he might be ready for the second half of his freshman season at Kentucky but once he was ready to play late in the season Calipari didn’t want to throw away a year of eligibility for very limited playing time.
“Talk about patience. The biggest love of his life in basketball and he had to sit out a season and a half,” Belcher said. “That can make you go crazy. But he’s so strong minded and such a great teammate that he knows the best is yet to come.”
Belcher says positives for Allen are that he already has a year of classes, has learned more about strength and conditioning than ever before, and had great learning experiences while just watching.
“He saw everything from the bench from being in Madison Square Garden when they beat the No. 1 team (Michigan State) to losing to Evansville at home,” Belcher said. “It was a great overall learning experience. He saw the high and lows of a really good season. So despite not playing, he learned a lot. He got a whole different perspective on basketball that can only help him.”
Calipari said once Allen was able to practice enough to learn plays, spacing, press attacks and more he could have helped the Cats.
“He could have gone in the game and held his own. I’m excited for him coming back and I think he’s excited,” Calipari said.
Allen told Belcher he was included in individual instruction and at times played in team scrimmages.
“I think he believes when he is fully healthy he can hold his own at Kentucky and the SEC,” Belcher said. “His work ethic will make sure he is in the mix (for playing time) next year. He has the best work ethic I have seen. He will be fine competing and holding his own next year.”
Allen, last year’s Mr. Basketball in Kentucky, has been back in Falmouth with his parents since UK students had to leave campus because of the coronavirus. Belcher said Allen has been working out on his own at his backyard court and has found an inside court to shoot on occasionally.
Two of Allen’s freshman teammates, Kahlil Whitney and Johnny Juzang, no longer are on the team. Whitney left the team in January and Juzang decided to transfer after the season ended. That won’t be a problem with Allen.
“Dontaie is at his dream school,” Belcher said. “It took him about 30 seconds to say yes to Cal when he was offered a scholarship. He was practicing every day and in the program he wanted to play for. He is going to embrace it every year he is there. He’s a very happy, go-lucky kid and is excited to be at Kentucky. Just think of all he got to see and learn last year. Now he knows more about what to expect next year and really can’t wait to show what he can do.”