Back at full health, Dontaie Allen eager to show talent
Few players on Kentucky's roster will be looking forward to tipping off the 2020-21 season like Dontaie Allen.
The redshirt freshman wing has been on campus for more than a year but has yet to appear in a game for the Wildcats due to working his way back from a serious knee injury he sustained as a senior at Pendleton County.
The 6-foot-6 Allen, UK's first in-state signee since 2013, was the Bluegrass State's "Mr. Basketball" award winner after averaging an eye-popping 42.9 points per game as a senior. His final year of high school basketball was cut short, however, after he tore ligaments in his left knee after just 13 games.
There were times during the second half of last season that UK head coach John Calipari hinted Allen may be ready to play for the Cats, but he's still eagerly waiting to make his Big Blue debut.
"I'm so excited," Allen said Friday during a preseason Zoom Q&A with the media. "It’s kind of built up."
The injury is almost an afterthought now. Since he was not rushed back from rehabilitation, Allen enters the new season strong from both a mental and physical standpoint.
"I'm better than ever," he said. "I was working out last week -- I think I was doing squats or something -- and my weight trainer asked me, 'How's your knee?' I was like, 'What are you talking about?' Like, I just forgot... That's just the space that I'm in right now."
Asked what he learned about himself during the difficult days of rehab, Allen said it was two-fold. First, that he is resilient. Second, that you have to savor every moment you get to play. He hasn't played in a formal game since December of 2018.
"It's made me a stronger person," he said. "... It’s almost like your life’s on the line. That’s kind of the mentality that I’ve got. Like, my life is on the line every day, and if I don’t give that kind of effort into it, I’m not going to make it.
"Just getting my mind in that kind of mental space has gotten me stronger."
Allen can now focus once again on what he does best -- putting the ball in the hole. His 3,255 career points at Pendleton County rank No. 11 all-time in state history. He scored more than 50 points in six of his first 12 games as a senior.
Kentucky once again features a deep group of talented newcomers out of the high school ranks, but one of the questions that many analysts have is whether the Cats have enough perimeter shooting.
Allen could go a long way toward answering some of those concerns. He and freshman guard B.J. Boston are expected to provide scoring from the arc when the season opens.