First, Brandon Allen inscribed two words atop the canvas: Terp Nation. Then came the black background, brushed with acrylic paint. A former Division II basketball player, Allen never received formal art training. He began doodling during college three years ago and only started painting 30 months after that. So maybe he doesn’t follow the conventional instructions, which recommend progressing from light to dark.
Next, a basketball forms in the upper left, followed by the jersey number of Brandon’s younger brother. They were inseparable as children, growing up in Woodbridge, playing driveway games of one-on-one, competing to learn who could jump higher or run faster. Now, the former Mount Olive (N.C.) guard is an insurance agent. The brother? Well, he’s the one being painted.
Finally, the body takes shape, a white Under Armour sleeve creeping up the left forearm. Brandon was inspired by a snapshot from Maryland Madness, when freshman guard Seth Allen turned his back to the crowd, spread his arms wide and palmed the basketball into his shooting hand, as if to say, “Paint a picture. It’ll last longer.”
Allen starred Saturday night, hitting the winning free throws over No. 2 Duke with two seconds left. He overcame a maddening, eight-turnover night to hang 16 points on the Blue Devils, all after intermission. He stuck big shots down the stretch and even bigger ones just before the buzzer. After floods of court-rushing students engulfed Allen at midcourt, he found a member of Maryland’s media relations staff, who led the evening’s hero through the ruckus and into the locker room like a private security detail.
“I was hot,” Allen said later. “Everybody was grabbing me. They picked me up and I just tried to get out of there.”
As Allen recounted his perspective on the evening’s events to reporters, Joe and Deborah Allen waited in the hallway. They raised three boys — Cameron is the eldest son — and a daughter, Starr. For seven years, Brandon was the baby until Seth came along. Joe likes to crack that they’re the spoiled ones. Since Seth is the youngest, however, they joke that he’s way past spoiled. He’s expired.
Twelve games into his inaugural ACC season, little about Allen’s game indicates impending extinction. He’s regained his shooting stroke, averaging 11.5 points over the past four games, and on Monday was named ACC rookie of the week. Despite setting a career-high in turnovers against Duke, he appears to have solidified himself as Maryland’s starting floor general.
Back home, folks who have never watched basketball before keep telling Deborah how much they enjoy watching her son play. Her hairdresser. The 87-year-old mother of her former boss. Her own mother.
“First, he’s sitting next to these men in suits,” Seth’s grandmother recalled after watching his collegiate debut. “And then he got up.”
“Yes,” Deborah replied then. “Those are the coaches. He’s going in the game.”
Back home, Cameron was considered the naturally talented artist. Seth and Brandon were the athletic ones, outgoing like their father. By age 2, Deborah says, Seth could dribble a Nerf basketball through his legs. Any circle turned into a hoop. Dump the laundry or empty the trash can? Seth would shoot into those.
“Only times he’d stop crying was when he got a ball,” Deborah said. “I tried to get him to play any sport besides basketball. He said, ‘Mom, I’m a basketball player.’ ”
Brandon broke the trend. He began drawing during class. Long team bus rides transformed into a mobile studio. Art relieved stress.
Six months ago, he painted himself and his girlfriend. After honoring the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michael Jordan in his next works, Brandon’s fourth painting was dedicated to Maryland’s No. 4. Sitting directly opposite the Maryland bench Saturday, Brandon held the completed 38-by-20-inch work, arms outstretched to the rafters, while Seth helped give Coach Mark Turgeon his biggest win since arriving in College Park.
With six newcomers, including four freshmen, the Terps have quickly become a tight-knit family this season. Allen’s kin still remains a powerful influence. Joe and Deborah regularly attend home games. They will travel to Chestnut Hill, Mass., where Boston College awaits Tuesday night.
The painting will hang in Seth’s room, an omnipresent reminder of his big brother’s support. Finishing took Brandon three separate one-hour sessions. He kept getting interrupted by work obligations, but delivered on a promise to finish it by Duke. Now, Brandon ponders his next painting. Perhaps he could work on commission, doing portraits for an NBA or NFL player. Or maybe he’ll remain local.
“I’ll do my man Chuck,” Brandon said. “Charles Mitchell. Seth’s roommate. I’m just thinking of how I want to do it.”
9 p.m., WDCA (Channel 20), WNUV (Channel 54)