He’s still not cleared to practice with his new Kentucky teammates — and it’ll be a little while longer before that happens — but Dontaie Allen is already making a positive impression on his fellow Wildcats.
“His work ethic is tremendous,” said freshman Keion Brooks. “I’ve seen Dontaie in this gym at 2, 3 in the morning, just working as hard as he can to get back.”
“You come in here at … 5:30 in the morning, and he’ll be in here running up and down the floor, getting up shots with a brace on,” added sophomore Ashton Hagans. “That’s just like, ‘Dang, he already ready to work.’”
He’s shooting at 2 in the morning. He’s running at 5:30 in the morning. When is he sleeping?
“I’m getting my sleep in,” Allen said with a laugh when told of his teammates’ comments. “I just wake up determined. I want it bad.”
Allen, the state’s reigning Mr. Basketball and the first high school player from Kentucky to sign with the Wildcats in more than five years, is still being held out of full practices due to a torn ACL he suffered last December.
UK Coach John Calipari said Tuesday that his guess is Allen is still about a month away from being able to practice with the team. Allen told the Herald-Leader that doctors have told him he’s still a month and a half or two months from being fully cleared, though he seemed optimistic that timetable might get shorter.
“We’ll see about that, as far as how I’m moving along,” he said. “I’m feeling good. I’m at the end of the rehab process, and I’m feeling a lot better.”
Over the summer, Allen’s activities were largely limited to things like shooting and dribbling. Anything involving the risk of contact was a no-no, and that’s still the case, though he said he has recently been cleared to work on cuts, start jumping, and running short distances.
He didn’t dispute his teammates’ observations of his gym activities. Living in the Wildcat Lodge, which is just across a small parking lot from the Craft Center, affords him easy access to the court.
“That’s so clutch. Being from Pendleton (County), you have to drive 10, 15 minutes to your school to go shoot,” Allen said. “Here, you’re walking 30 seconds and you’re in the gym.”
A normal day for the UK freshman consists of a 5:30 or 6 a.m. alarm, and then it’s straight to the gym for about an hour and a half of shooting and another 30-45 minutes of rehab on his knee. Then it’s classes, workouts, practice — where he spends a good amount of time off to the side with trainers — and then the training table and one last meal.
“And then you’re ready to go to sleep,” he said.
Sometimes, Allen admitted, he’ll just sleep in the locker room at the Craft Center, putting him that much closer to the court.
UK’s best shooter?
In high school, the 6-foot-6 wing was known as a terrific scorer and outside shooter. Other than walk-on freshman Brennan Canada — a close friend and former AAU teammate — Allen’s UK teammates weren’t overly familiar with his game before coming to Lexington.
They’ve since learned, both from watching him practice on his own and looking up his stats. What has stood out to them has been his ability to shoot from long range.
“From what I’ve watched and his highlights, he could always shoot,” sophomore Immanuel Quickley said. “Scoring — what was it? — like a hundred points a game or something? Yeah, we always joke around with that. We always tell him he took like a hundred shots a game.”
“He has a lot of confidence,” Brooks said, a smile growing. “I would, too, if I averaged 47 points in high school.”
It was actually 42.9 points per game that Allen averaged in his abbreviated senior season — and 31.8 as a junior — and he obviously didn’t take 100 shots a game to do it. The joking around among his teammates was a sign of the familiarity and respect they’ve established with Allen in a short amount of time. “I’m loving my teammates,” he said.
And, in all seriousness, they are loving what he’s bringing to this UK team.
Brooks and Quickley said his scoring ability will be useful once he’s cleared to play. Hagans said he has walked in the gym at 6:30 in the morning and watched Allen putting up shots from the edge of the logo at halfcourt. And making them.
Off the court, the Kentucky kid is bonding with his fellow Cats, who are looking forward to a fully healthy version of their new friend and teammate.
“He’s coming back right in the middle of what we’re doing, but we’re going to help him every way we can,” Brooks said. “We’re going to go out of our way to make sure he’s comfortable with coming in here and adjusting to things.
“I know it’s probably hard on him at times — not being able to practice and be out here with us — but he’s a hard worker, and I know he’s going to get through it and he’s going to be back on the court with us. And it’s going to look like he didn’t miss a beat.”
Important upcoming dates
Oct. 6: Pro Day
Oct. 11: Big Blue Madness
Oct. 16: SEC Media Day
Oct. 18: Blue-White Scrimmage
Oct. 27: Exhibition opener vs. Georgetown College
Nov. 1: Exhibition vs. Kentucky State
Nov. 5: Season opener vs. Michigan State