Chris Allen finds new home at Iowa State
Iowa State guard Chris Allen used to be one of the more well-known players in all of college basketball.
Now he's just that guy - as in,'' Oh yeah, I remember that guy.''
Allen was a key cog in Michigan State's Final Four teams in 2009 and 2010 that fell short in its stirring quest to win the national title in Detroit and lost to a Butler team trying to pull off a similar feat in Indianapolis.
After an exit from East Lansing that may never be fully explained, Allen landed at Iowa State in the summer of 2010 as one of a crop of transfers coach Fred Hoiberg hoped can speed up his rebuilding efforts.
Allen, a 6-foot-3 guard, will be back in the spotlight for the Cyclones this winter. In fact, he's already been tabbed as a preseason honorable mention All-Big 12 pick by the league's coaches.
''He's been there, and that's what you want. You want people that have been in those types of situations,'' Hoiberg said Tuesday.
Because Allen's spent the past year in Ames, a brief primer on his career seems in order.
Allen was an first-team all-state pick at Meadowcreek High in Georgia in 2007 and one of the nation's most touted recruits when he signed with the Spartans. He contributed immediately for Michigan State, averaging 6.3 points as a freshman and scoring a season-high 20 in a loss to Memphis in the regional semifinals in 2008.
Allen's role grew in 2008-09, as he led the Spartans with 52 3-pointers and scored 16 points in the title game loss to the Tar Heels. He moved into the starting lineup as a junior, scoring at least 10 points 15 times, but by then his relationship with coach Tom Izzo began to deteriorate.
Allen was suspended for the team's Big Ten tournament opener. He helped lead the Spartans back to the title game, but in August of 2010 he was kicked off the team for unspecified reasons.
Allen said Tuesday that he doesn't harbor any resentment toward Izzo, who he praised for his demanding but caring relationship with his players.
''It was so long ago, I kind of blocked it out of my memory,'' Allen said. ''It happened, but it's the past. If I dwell on that, then I not going to do nothing here.''
It didn't take long for Hoiberg to welcome Allen to Iowa State.
Hoiberg, then preparing for his first season as a coach at any level, figured the fastest way to get the Cyclones competitive in the Big 12 was to take chances on transfers like Allen, Royce White (Minnesota) and Chris Babb (Penn State).
None of them were eligible last season, and Iowa State's lack of depth wore it down as it stumbled to a 3-13 record in the Big 12 after a promising start in nonconference play.
They'll all be expected to play major roles in 2011-12.
White, the league's preseason newcomer of the year, will man the post, and Babb will figure prominently in Iowa's State three-guard attack.
Although Allen has never played a minute for the Cyclones, he and fellow senior guard Scott Christopherson be looked upon to help a roster full of unknown pieces gel into a unit that can compete for a Big 12 title.
''You always lean on your seniors. Having two of them in Scott and Chris, we'll definitely lean on those guys,'' Hoiberg said.
Allen isn't a true point guard. But nobody else on the Cyclones is either after they lost Diante Garrett, so Allen will likely bring the ball up the floor at times and get Iowa State into their offensive sets.
Allen's true role on both ends of the floor will likely take some time to discern, but his defense, outside shooting and leadership will be key for a team with so many moving pieces.
''He's in the gym all the time,'' junior college transfer Tyrus McGee said. ''I look up to him because he's an older guy. He knows the game more. He's a quiet guy, laid back. He'll sit there and listen, and he does what he's supposed to do. That's the real reason why I look up to him.''
Allen has already played in 14 NCAA tournament games in his career - and that's as many as Iowa State's played since the early 90s.
Fans in Ames aren't expecting another Final Four trip out of Allen. Just reaching the NCAA tournament would be enough, since the Cyclones haven't been there since 2005.
''I could help these guys a lot. The tournament experience, that's a whole (new) level,'' Allen said. ''When you've got guys that have played against the big-name teams with the big-name coaches and the big time fans, when you playing regular games in the Big 12 it makes it a lot easier. If the guys see somebody that they look at as a leader calm and collected, then it's only going to carry over.''