For Hokies' Allen, Bump Provided Needed Nudge

Seth Greenberg, Jeff Allen
Jeff Allen, right, and Coach Seth Greenberg had a heart-to-heart after Allen bumped a ref. (AP)
By Adam Kilgore
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 20, 2008

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- The day after mattered most for Jeff Allen. He walked into Seth Greenberg's office, a meeting the coach had requested. Allen had made contact with an official at Georgia Tech, an act that cost him two games and threatened to taint his freshman season and submarine Virginia Tech's.

Even before the Jan. 20 meeting, Greenberg worried that Allen relied too much on raw ability. The incident, Greenberg believed, might shake Allen into realizing his potential to play in the NBA. "Something had to come out of that," Greenberg said.

Greenberg said he told Allen, "You've got to change." For an hour, they spoke about how far his potential -- dancer's feet, elastic arms, quick hands -- could carry Allen, and how it could be squandered. The forward promised he would mature, that he would close the gap between his natural talent and his work ethic. Greenberg told him he would hold him to it.

Allen began arriving earlier to practice and staying late to hoist extra jump shots. He approached weightlifting with renewed intensity. The extra work has helped Allen come closer to being the player Greenberg believes he can be.

"I couldn't be more pleased with him the last three weeks," Greenberg said. "A light bulb's gone off. He's got such a high ceiling, and he's starting to realize that."

So far, both have delivered on the promises they made that Sunday in January. Allen has scored in double figures in all but five games while ranking seventh in the ACC in rebounding and second in steals. Even as Allen has emerged as one of the best freshmen in the ACC -- his disappointing six-point performance against North Carolina on Saturday notwithstanding -- Greenberg demands more.

Allen's 2.2 steals per game? Greenberg wants more solid, disciplined defense and less stabbing at the ball. Those 12.4 points and 7.5 rebounds? Greenberg thinks he's settling.

"He's always going to get 13 or 14 and six," Greenberg said. "But when you can get 20 and 12, why get 14 and six?"

Greenberg "wanted me to be more of a leader on the team," Allen said. "He was expecting that when I first got here, and I really didn't understand it at first. Now I understand. First I couldn't step up to the plate, and I think I'm starting to do it now."

Allen played football growing up in Washington, but switched sports for good at age 11. "Basketball is much easier," Allen said. "Less plays to remember."

Once at DeMatha, the 6-foot-7 Allen counted on his size and talent to overpower opponents.

"He was a freak athletically," DeMatha Coach Mike Jones said. "A lot of the things he was able to do was just because he was naturally gifted."

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