Virginia Tech's Jeff Allen tries to move past his foul trouble
There have never been any questions about Jeff Allen's talent. Before his current streak of five double-doubles in the last six games, Virginia Tech's versatile 6-foot-7 forward had produced 33 other double-doubles during his college career.
Consistency and maturity, though, have always been the sticking point when mentioning Allen's name with other big time players. The only other time he had three double-doubles in a row came three years ago, when the Washington native was just a freshman. Staying on the court has been the main problem. Over the course of his first three years in Blacksburg, Allen finished a game with four or more fouls 47 times.
Even to start this season, Allen fouled out of four of the Hokies' first eight games. Considering how well he's played of late -- Allen was named ACC player of the week after exploding for a game high 24 points and 11 rebounds in a win over Florida State last Saturday -- it's little wonder then that Virginia Tech began this season 4-4.
But since the Hokies opened ACC play with a 57-54 loss to Virginia -- a game in which Allen had 12 points and seven rebounds but fouled out with seven seconds remaining -- Allen has taken his game to uncharted territory. And it has nothing to do with his 15.8-point, 11.67 rebound averages during the Hokies' six-game winning streak.
He's fouled out just once in those six victories, and three times he's ended the game with two or fewer fouls. So has Allen turned a corner when it comes to dealing with officials? He seems to think so, and the credit goes to the desperate straits the Hokies find themselves in now that they're left with eight scholarship players for the rest of this season.
"I cut back the attitude," Allen said Tuesday. "When they make a bad call or something I think is a bad call, instead of reacting, I just move on to the next play. Because me sitting with that foul on my mind is probably gonna make me get mad. I’m probably gonna commit another one and then I’m on the bench and I don’t think my team can win with me on the bench.”
Allen said the change came after Virginia Tech's loss to Purdue last month. Injured forward J.T. Thompson noticed Allen making a face after a bad call, pulled him aside and said, ‘There ain’t no need to do it because that’s just gonna make them look at you more.’
Allen thought about it, and has taken Thompson's advice ever since. "I just hit reality," he admitted.
You'll remember Allen had a well-documented run-in with an ACC official as a freshman, earning a two-game suspension after he bumped an official when he fouled out of a game against Georgia Tech.
This year, Allen has tried to cut back on the reaching, especially far away from the basket, that has gotten him into foul trouble in the past. Coach Seth Greenberg has also made keeping Allen on the floor a priority with the Hokies' depleted roster. With so many injuries, Virginia Tech simply can't afford to have Allen unproductive and on the bench for long stretches.
It also helps that Allen thinks he has a much better relationship with ACC officials now and that his mistakes from the past have been forgiven. Allen said he even keeps a running dialogue with some officials. As for complimenting them for a good call, well, Allen's maturation process hasn't quite gotten to that point yet.
"I’m having a little bit of trouble with that," Allen said with a smile. "I think I said it once. But I’m getting better with it.”
*Allen's strained groin hasn't forced him to miss a game yet, but this week, it has once again limited his practice time. Allen did not participate in Monday's practice, and only took part in 30 percent of Tuesday's session. But Greenberg said there's no doubt Allen will play Thursday against North Carolina.
On Tuesday, Virginia Tech practiced with just six scholarship players because guard Erick Green was sidelined with food poisoning. He'll still play Thursday. But in regards to Allen, Greenberg was asked if having him miss so much practice time could catch up with him later in the season.
"He’s playing a lot of minutes, and starting Thursday, we’re gonna play a lot of games," Greenberg said. "He’s been there and done that. He’s got a pretty high basketball IQ. I want him to shoot the ball; I want him to shoot free throws. It’s sure more important to me to have him be able to play in the game, then make practice better.
| January 12, 2011; 10:37 AM ET
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