It was quite a week for Dontaie Allen, the Pendleton County basketball star who made the most of his opportunity on a national stage and is now firmly in the discussion for Top 100 status in the recruiting class of 2019.
Allen filled up the stat sheet at the Under Armour Challenge in Cartersville, Ga. — and added to his already impressive list of scholarship offers — in a series of breakout performances in front of dozens of top college coaches.
The Under Armour Challenge was one of the three biggest events of the first July evaluation period this past week — joining Nike’s Peach Jam in South Carolina and an Adidas showcase in New York City — and it was Allen’s biggest chance yet to prove himself in front of major college programs that might not have seen him play in the spring with his shoe company-unaffiliated M.A.T.T.S. Mustangs squad.
Allen led the 78-team event in scoring with 26.4 points per game, shooting 54.5 percent from the floor and making 15 of 37 threes for a 40.5-percent rate. He also averaged 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists per game, finishing fourth overall in both categories.
And this was against some stout competition.
The Mustangs’ first opponent Wednesday night featured a five-star national recruit, Josiah James, who has scholarship offers from Duke, Michigan State and several others. Among the other statistical leaders at the UA Challenge were Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, one of 2019’s best recruits; RJ Hampton, the No. 1-ranked point guard in the 2020 class; and Anthony Edwards, the No. 3 prospect nationally in 2020.
Allen picked up his fair share of new offers with his play, adding Auburn, Florida, Illinois, Iowa State, Louisville, Oklahoma, Pittsburgh and Saint Louis to a list that already included relatively recent offers from Xavier, West Virginia, Purdue, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech and several others.
The Kentucky native also vaulted himself into the national rankings conversation.
More scholarship offers are also expected in the near future.
Texas’ Shaka Smart and Mississippi State’s Ben Howland were among the coaches who watched him last week. Ohio State, Wisconsin and Clemson are among many others that have been tracking his progress and will likely continue to do so for the rest of the summer.
And then there’s Kentucky.
UK Coach John Calipari left Peach Jam on Thursday afternoon so he could catch Allen’s game later that day in Cartersville, and the Wildcats coaching staff is staying in contact with the in-state star and his family for a possible scholarship offer in the future.
Allen has said that he would like to start narrowing his recruitment after the July periods wrap up — the Mustangs will play this week at an event in Orlando, the following week at a showcase in Louisville — and he’s also said he’d like to be able to commit to a college before his senior season at Pendleton County.
That timetable isn’t set in stone, so UK still has some time to complete its evaluation and come through with a scholarship offer. If that happens, the Herald-Leader has been told the Cats would be in great position to land their first in-state signee since 2013.
Whether or not Allen gets that UK offer is shaping up as one of the biggest recruiting storylines of the summer.
Still in touch
Jalen Lecque — a 6-foot-3 prospect from New York City, now playing for a school in North Carolina — is a recent recipient of a UK scholarship offer, and he’s been trying to make the transition to point guard in recent months.
“I wasn’t doing as good in the beginning of the (Nike) sessions, but I’m starting to get it together now,” he said. “I’m playing better from the point guard position. I feel like I’ve been one of the best point guards out here, and I’m just focusing on the next game.”
He averaged 15.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists over five games at Peach Jam, making five of 19 three-point attempts for a 26.3 success rate. That’s a better number from long range than he achieved during the Nike regular season, when he made just four of 38 three-point shots (for 10.5 percent).
Lecque, a highly athletic prospect who can get into the paint at will, has been working on that outside shot along with his all-around point guard skills. He said UK’s coaches have remained in touch but added that he’s not focused on his recruitment and declined to give a list of schools.
Though he’s acknowledged in the past that reclassifying to 2018 — and playing college ball this season — has been under consideration, it sounds like the plan is to stick in 2019. A reclassification move would have to be completed in the next few weeks, and Lecque acted as if his recruitment is a long way from being complete.
“I’m cutting (my list) down slowly, because I have a lot of time,” he said.
If he does stay in 2019, the possibility of pairing up with UK commitment Tyrese Maxey — another versatile guard — would be on the table. Lecque said he’s open to playing with other great backcourt players, even if it means he’d have to move to an off-the-ball role.
Maxey, in particular, would be an intriguing match.
“That’s my guy,” Lecque said. “He tries to recruit me and stuff like that. I like him. He’s a good teammate. I’ve played with him at a lot of camps.”
One of Jalen Lecque’s highly touted Nike teammates is five-star center Kofi Cockburn, who has joined the list of recruits in the class of 2019 that might be in line for a UK scholarship offer down the road.
Cockburn — a 6-foot-11, 250-pound native of Jamaica — is one of the most physically imposing players in the class, and he led the Nike circuit in rebounding this spring, then averaged 17.8 points and 9.0 rebounds per game at the league’s Peach Jam event last week.
Rivals.com ranks him as the No. 24 overall prospect in the 2019 class, and his list of scholarship offers is now in the dozens, with Kansas, Syracuse, Indiana, UCLA and Georgetown among the many major programs involved.
Cockburn said at Peach Jam that UK, too, has expressed interest. He told the Herald-Leader that he’s been in contact with the Wildcats’ coaching staff for about two months now, and he’s hoping to make a recruiting visit to Lexington sometime soon.
“I don’t know that much (about UK), because I just came to the country about three years ago,” he said. “I just know it’s a really good program and it’s good for playing in the pros.
“I mean, they’ve had some good bigs come through there, and they think I model my game after most of them. So that’s a good feeling.”
Cockburn, who said he has no timeline for a college decision, plays for Christ the King High School in Queens, N.Y.
Rest of the month
Nike’s Peach Jam is seen as the biggest shoe company circuit event of the summer, but it’s conclusion Sunday afternoon doesn’t mean an end to recruiting showcases this month.
There are still two more evaluation periods for college coaches to scout prospective recruits, and the next one starts Wednesday and runs through Sunday.
That means John Calipari, UK’s assistants, and the rest of the college basketball coaching world will be back on the trail and looking at players. It also means more opportunities for prospects such as Dontaie Allen to prove themselves and pick up additional scholarship offers and interest.
The final evaluation period of the month is set for July 25-29.