Let’s give the Aussie some credit

Like most Hoosiers, I’ve been critical of Ben Allen this year. How could you not be? At times it looks as if Allen is as lost as Jack, Sawyer and Hurley. Not only has the Aussie had to battle mono this season, but he also is in the process of adjusting to a completely new position.

Imagine if D.J. White had been playing shooting guard his whole life. Or imagine if Errek Suhr grew up playing center. Wouldn’t it be tough for them adjusting to a new position?

I had to go through this adjustment myself once. I was the smallest kid on my team in fourth grade, yet I set more screens than Karl Malone that season. I was fed up, so I confronted my coach.

I went up to him and said, “Coach, I think I’m more of a shooter than a picker.”

To this, there were endless laughs. Needless to say, I spent the rest of the season setting picks.

But the transition was hard, and I was as comfortable setting a pick as Allen most likely was playing in the post. Unlike Allen, I quit basketball because I stopped growing and have no left hand. If Sampson had ever saw me play, he probably would have made some joke about being on foot or horseback that I wouldn’t have understood.

But Sampson has noticed Allen working hard and improving on playing in the post. In his press conference last night, Sampson said this season has been “almost a transformation for [Allen] in some respects.”

The Aussie had his best game of the season last night, playing 13 minutes and scoring four points. To give you an idea of how much Allen has struggled this season, last night’s points were his first in nearly two months.

He hasn’t been producing, but he has been hustling. Sampson said he has been pleased with how Allen has been working in practice. Allen’s play in his last two games has shown some of the promise that Mike Davis saw when he recruited him.

But the current Ben Allen is a completely different player than the one Davis recruited.

Last season, every time Allen got the ball he would immediately look to jack up a 3 like he was Bracey Wright, Rod Wilmont and Gilbert Arenas morphed into one trigger-happy center.

The 6-foot-11 center attempted 41 3s last season. This season? One.

I noticed last night, that instead of looking for his shot beyond the arc, Allen didn’t even look at the rim when he was standing outside the paint.

Was he impressive? Eh, maybe. Was he serviceable? Yes. And a serviceable 7-footer that comes out of nowhere (Australia) is a huge boost to a team looking to make a run in the NCAA tournament.

If Allen can play at the level he has the past two games, or build on those two games and play even better, the Hoosiers turn into a team with a relatively deep frontcourt. Or at least a team that isn’t forced to play four guards at the same time.

There are several student groups on Facebook bashing Ben Allen, asking him to do everything from give up his scholarship to going back Down Under. But the largest Ben Allen group with 210 members is titled, “If you booed Ben Allen, you are a lowlife.”

I think that kind of support (shout out to the group’s creator Alex Trueblood) is the reason Allen has been able to rebound from his struggles this season. I can’t say I haven’t made one or two (or 10) jokes about Allen this season, but I can say that I see him making an admirable effort on the floor.

I know some IU fans hope Allen transfers next season, or has his scholarship taken away, but I think Allen could be very valuable to next year’s team. If White leaves, Allen will be the Hoosier’s most experienced big man. And with a full-year under Sampson, who knows what kind of player Allen can evolve into.

Side note
A loyal Hoosier Scoop poster told me humorous story from last night. For the sake of his anonymity, let’s refer to him as Chauncey.

Anyways, Chauncey had pretty good seats for last night’s game, and just happened to be sitting behind Armon Bassett’s family.

On the first or second possession (I forget), Bassett comes down the court and misses a jumper. Immediately some fan behind Chauncey yells, “Take away his scholarship!”

Bassett’s entire family turns around and gives the fan the evil glare, while Bassett’s sister replies, “I know he ain’t talking about my brother.”

Watch what you say Hoosier fans — you never know who might be sitting around you.

9 comments

  1. I think it’s too late to make Allen into a decent center. He doesn’t have the quickness to play defense or the toughness to be good on offense. However, one of my co-workers brought up an interesting point earlier this week, maybe he could be used as an extra forward.

    He used to shoot a pretty good 3 ball and he would be difficult to block. He can set screens for other players when he’s not shooting. This team desperately needs a shooter.

    Speaking of shooting, D.J. is more effective on offense when he shoots a clean shot away from the basket rather than forcing up garbage and HOPING for a foul. Plus, he usually takes the tall defenders with him which gives us a better chance to get a rebound with our shorter lineups.

    Where was Keeling last night? Is he in the dog house?

    Sloppy game but much better effort.

  2. Keeling isn’t in Sampson’s doghouse…I think Sampson really is working on building Allen’s confidence. Mike White and Lance Stemler are ahead of Keeling on the depth chart, so X-Man is the odd man out.

    I think Allen would be effective on offense with your theory Mark, but on defense it would be…scary I think that is the reason Sampson is trying to convert Allen into a post player.

    Allen might be able to score 10 points a game that way, but he would probably give up 20 playing on the perimeter.

  3. Anyone who says that seriously about Armon needs to fall down the Assembly Hall steps from about Row 35 to the bottom.

  4. Something tells me that Allen is getting a lot more attention all of a sudden because he had a mediocre game on Wednesday. He played OK, but not enough to show what he’s truly capable of. Last year was awesome for Allen, but now he’s just a fill-in for DJ if he gets into foul trouble. I just don’t get it.

  5. I am new to Indiana basketball—my daughter is a freshman—but now I am a diehard fan. I was really impressed with the team discipline in the first half of the year. Now, and even before they lost their point guard, they don’t seem to play as a team at all—dumb passes, turnovers and no teamwork. Am I wrong about this? If not, what do you think happened?

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