Keaton Belcher, the head boys’ basketball coach at Pendleton County, learned about 30 minutes before the rest of the world that Dontaie Allen, the Wildcats’ top-50 recruit, would commit to the University of Kentucky.
“He said ‘I’m committing at 2 o’clock,” Belcher said in a phone interview. “I said, ‘Are you serious?’
Belcher binged some McDonald’s french fries to help contain his excitement before Allen tweeted out his commitment, becoming the second member of UK’s 2019 recruiting class and the first Pendleton County basketball player to join a high-major program. He’s the fourth Division I basketball player to come out of the program, joining Belcher (Belmont), Talbert Turner (Morehead State) and Bobby Lee Wyatt (Louisiana Tech).
Allen, a 6-foot-6 forward, was a first-team All-State selection after averaging 31.8 points and 11.4 rebounds as a junior. He shot 59.1 percent from the field and 39.6 percent three-point range, and flew up the recruiting rankings this offseason thanks to his play for M.A.T.T.S. Mustangs, a travel team based out of Kentucky. Rivals.com has him ranked as the 47th overall recruit in the 2019 class.
If he wears No. 11 — his high school number — at UK, Allen would be the tallest to ever wear that uniform at UK (Belcher learned that via the Big Blue History website). He’s a nightly triple-double threat for Pendleton County and is regularly the team’s leader in every statistical category.
“Statistically speaking, I think the best comparison is LeBron James,” Belcher said with a laugh. “He doesn’t necessarily play like him, he’s more of a finesse player, but stats-wise, he’s all across the board. ... His body type is like Kevin Durant, kinda lanky. His skill set is a combination of probably LeBron James and Kevin Durant, on the high school level.”
Allen at UK probably won’t be asked to dominate the ball as much as he does now in the 10th Region. Belcher thinks he’ll have no problem adjusting to whatever role is asked of him.
“He’s played so much basketball in his life that he can fit into any game on any level,” Belcher said. “He’s a natural scorer so you can put him in situations off the ball, as opposed to where at Pendleton he’s got the ball a lot. I think he can adapt really well.”
Allen was a late riser perhaps in part because of his loyalty to Pendleton County, which has about 15,000 residents and whose basketball program isn’t perennially in the limelight. The Wildcats have played in three Sweet Sixteen tournaments, the last in 2005.
Belcher can’t help but think that Allen’s love for his hometown generated good karma for UK’s newest commitment.
“Dontaie chose to stay home and not transfer even though he could have,” Belcher said. “Good things happen to good people, and for Dontaie to be loyal and being just a great young man, it’s paying off for him now. Instead of finding a shortcut to get somewhere quickly, he was patient and worked his way to a Kentucky scholarship offer.”
Pendleton County fans relished their basketball savant before UK came calling; now Belcher suspects their road crowds will do the same.
“Pendleton County basketball fans have always had a sincere interest in their team,” Belcher said. “We’ve always traveled well, but this year is gonna be a different story because you’re not only getting Pendleton County fans, but you’re gonna get Kentucky fans. When we play at Montgomery County on a Friday night or Clark County on a Friday night, or even at Bourbon County on a Monday night, at those schools that are closer to Lexington, we’re gonna get some fans that we don’t usually get.”