In the 2014 recruiting class, Duke University pulled in several talented players. The number one recruit in the ESPN’s top 100 Jahlil Okafor committed to the Blue Devils along with Tyus Jones, the top point guard and number four player in the class, and Justise Winslow, the 15th overall recruit. And then they acquired the 21st overall recruit Grayson Allen.
Allen was pretty much the end of the notable recruits in the class, the exceptions being Tyler Ulis and Chris McCullough. He wasn’t exactly unknown, having proven his worth with an amazing highlight reel which included his incredible McDonalds All-American dunk contest victory. However, in comparison to some of the breathtaking recruits ahead of him, he didn’t seem nearly as promising.
Throughout the 2015 season, it was clear he wouldn’t be like the other star-studded recruits in his class. He played only nine minutes a game, averaging a mere four points and half an assist per game. It did not appear as if he were special, or even capable of transcending into the NBA. But then a flip switched – March Madness.
As Duke cruised through March Madness, they played Allen more and more as heads began to turn. He would hit threes, throw down dunks and continue to impress with his athleticism. In their Final Four game against Michigan State University, he missed a contested three but followed his shot, grabbed the rebound and slammed it home. It was the dagger that put away that blowout game.
In the finals against Wisconsin, Allen was subbed in and he was a madman – making shots, scrambling for loose balls, and single-handedly wreaking havoc for the Blue Devils. They won that game, and although Tyus Jones would win Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four, Allen would be remembered as one of the game’s heroes.
As he continued his college career, he quickly became the face of Duke’s basketball team in two ways – as the lovable fan favorite being one of the best players on the squad, and as the hatable gym-rat only valued for scrappy belligerence. He fit the mold created by the likes of Christian Laettner, JJ Redick and many others before him.
He had a great 2016 season, being a frontrunner for ACC POY and becoming a Duke beloved along with Brandon Ingram. Unfortunately there was one big problem – tripping. That’s right, Allen would intentionally trip opposing players, which left him with big consequences.
Clearly, an uncontrolled temper will hinder success entering the NBA. Additionally, he was expected to enter the league after his sophomore year. Expectedly, he would enter the draft, get picked middle or late first round, make millions, et cetera. But instead of declaring for the draft, he decided to stay another year.
Many were confused by this action, having no idea why he would pass on millions an NBA contract would provide. Who knows why he would do that? The year looked promising, with new star additions Harry Giles, Jayson Tatum, and Frank Jackson. They made it into March Madness as a two seed, and were predicted by many to be the champions. And then they got bounced by the upstart South Carolina University in the round of 32. It was a devastating defeat, and one that increased suspicion even more about why Allen chose to stay with Duke.
Once again, he did not declare for the NBA draft. He will come back for the 2018 season as a senior. Although he is expected to enter the NBA after his fourth year at Duke, he could just as likely leave the game of basketball as a college legend.