Only the hopeless optimist would deny Tuesday’s news that Texas freshman Jarrett Allen was hiring an agent and staying in the NBA draft. Just about everyone else could see this coming for weeks.
A 6-foot-11 talent doesn’t come around often. Once it was clear that Allen would be a first-round pick, as many mock drafts have suggested, it was only a matter of time before the school released his final statement saying goodbye to the Longhorns.
“It is with mixed emotions that I announce my decision to begin the process of hiring an agent and turning professional,” Allen said. “Throughout this basketball season, I felt l have grown as a basketball player and as a person while learning how to approach and prepare for the game.
“These experiences and my continual improvement throughout this year have provided me the opportunity of a lifetime to live my dream of playing basketball at the highest level,” he continued.
“I have had deep discussions with my family as well as Coach (Shaka) Smart in making sure this is a sound decision. I firmly believe in my heart, understanding the personal goals I have set and my love for the game of basketball, that this is the right decision to make.”
Allen, who attended St. Stephen’s before UT, was long thought to be a one-and-done type of player. He was incredibly raw upon arrival but slowly got better month by month, a tribute to both Smart and the developmental skills of assistant coach Darrin Horn, who works with the big men.
Allen finished the year with 12 double-doubles and led the team in rebounding (8.4), blocks (51) and minutes played (32.1). He averaged 13.4 points per game and shot 56.6 percent from the floor.
Allen leaves UT as the first one-and-done player who never played in the NCAA Tournament, though. The Longhorns were 11-22 last season and finished last in the Big 12 standings.
“To all of my coaches along the way, thank you for believing in me and doing whatever you could to push me in the right direction during this process,” Allen said. “To my St. Stephens’ family, thank you for keeping the love going throughout my career in this great city. And to the fans who believed in me and supported me in both the good and bad times throughout this season, thank you. I appreciate each of you.”
Allen’s recruitment was a huge gamble for Smart. The mercurial talent elected not to sign a national letter of intent, a document that binds the athlete to the school and vice versa. Instead, Allen kept his options open and never made his final recruiting decision public, leaving coaches, fans and the media all left to play a guessing game last April and May.
Had Allen had his way, he would have shown up on campus for the first day of summer school last June and that would’ve been the end of it. The final word came down on June 3 that Allen had picked Texas.
Also had Allen spurned the Longhorns, Smart would have been embarrassed for betting the house on a single recruit. Instead, Smart and the Horns got a dynamic talent that was well worth the wait.
After a loss to Kansas State in the Big 12 opener, Smart bristled at a reporter’s question as to whether Allen was worthy of all the hype. One month later, Smart reminded that reporter about that question after Allen went off for 22 points and 19 rebounds against Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.
“When Jarrett chose to come to the University of Texas, he expressed a sincere interest in learning and having the absolute best freshman season he could have,” Smart said in a statement. The coach has indicated before that he does not stand in any player’s way about deciding his own future.
“I’m really pleased with the tremendous growth Jarrett has shown,” Smart added. “He has been a joy to coach and I’m excited to watch him continue to develop into the best version of himself at the next level.”
With Allen now gone, this may actually help the Longhorns in their pursuit of another five-star talent, New York center Mo Bamba. Three recruiting reporters for Rivals have predicted that Bamba will pick UT over Kentucky, but there’s been no final word.
The spring signing period begins Wednesday for basketball recruits. UT is expected to sign Oak Hill Academy guard Matt Coleman, the likely starter at point guard next season.
Contact Brian Davis at 512-445-3957. Email email@example.com.