Much of the attention in college basketball recruiting circles this week is focused on the Nike Peach Jam finals, the signature grassroots event of the summer.
While many of UK’s top targets competed here Thursday morning — and John Calipari sat courtside watching them — word of another, lesser-known prospect was spreading.
Three hours away, Pendleton County standout Dontaie Allen was lighting it up at the Under Armour Challenge.
UK assistant coach Tony Barbee watched Allen play for his M.A.T.T.S. Mustangs squad on Wednesday night, when he scored 21 points, and Thursday morning, when he dropped 33 points, five rebounds and seven assists in front of many top college coaches.
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By Thursday afternoon, Calipari had made the trip to Cartersville, Ga., to see the in-state star.
A UK scholarship offer could be coming Allen’s way soon.
“The way that he’s playing right now, it’s either now or never,” Rivals.com national analyst Corey Evans told the Herald-Leader. “I don’t know what else he would want from him.”
Evans has been evaluating Allen — a 6-foot-6 wing player — at the Under Armour-sponsored event.
The Kentucky native was of particular interest going into this week for Evans, who previously told the Herald-Leader that the Rivals.com team hadn’t seen enough of Allen in recent months to comfortably rank him in the 2019 class.
M.A.T.T.S. Mustangs are not affiliated with the Nike, Adidas or Under Armour circuits, so coaches and analysts often had to go well out of their way to see them play this spring.
When the updated Rivals.com rankings were released this month, Allen wasn’t listed anywhere in the Top 150. It sounds like that will change soon.
“If he’s not a top-50 — or fringe top-50 prospect — I don’t know what is,” Evans told the Herald-Leader on Thursday. “He has size. He has versatility. He has scoring. He has shooting. He has what seems like strong intangibles and character.
“He’s what you look for in a prospect his age.”
Other college coaches have noticed this spring. Allen has relatively recent scholarship offers from Xavier, West Virginia, Purdue, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, Nevada and Western Kentucky.
Florida extended an offer Thursday morning. Illinois and Pittsburgh offered Thursday night. More schools are expected to join that list soon.
Allen isn’t new to UK’s recruiting radar.
He averaged 31.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game as a junior this past season, shooting 59.1 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from three-point range.
Wildcats assistant coach Joel Justus, who also watched him play Thursday, visited his high school earlier this year, inviting him to visit Lexington in June. Allen followed through on that trip, but an injury prevented him from playing pickup ball against the current UK players.
The Cats’ coaches told him they’d be keeping tabs on him this summer, hoping to see how he fared against top competition. Allen scored 30 points in the game Calipari attended Thursday, shooting 11-for-15 from the floor and making four-of-six three-point attempts. After three games of pool play, he was leading the 78-team event with 28.0 points per game, adding 5.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists per game and shooting 45.8 percent from three-point range.
It might be enough for Kentucky, which hasn’t signed an in-state player since 2013, to follow through with an offer.
“He’s a 6-foot-6 wing that can play the ‘2’ through ‘4’ on offense,” Evans said. “He can get to his spot any time he wants, which is impressive for not being an elite-level athlete. I think his IQ for the game is above par. He can play-make when he needs to. But I think it’s his three-level scoring skills that stand out the most.
“He definitely has the ability to comprehend the time and place to shoot the right jump shot. He doesn’t force the issue when a double-team is there. Just making the right decisions that he does in a half-court setting against a half-court defense, that stands out to me. He doesn’t turn the ball over — and for having the ball in his hands so much — that’s impressive.”