Virginia Tech's Jeff Allen has a new attitude in his final college season
Wednesday, January 19, 2011; 1:02 PM
BLACKSBURG, VA. - Virginia Tech senior Jeff Allen came bounding down the Cassell Coliseum steps, right on time, a little more than 90 minutes before Saturday night's tip-off against Wake Forest. A 6-foot-7 forward known to show up late for team functions early in his career, Allen is receiving additional treatment for an injured groin these days and taking his pregame routine more seriously as a result.
But as the Washington native emerged from the Hokies locker room for a shoot-around, he trudged onto the court with a sheepish smile on his face. He was wearing just socks and his warmup gear.
"I left my shoes at home," Allen mouthed to a trainer.
It took 15 minutes for assistant coach Adrian Autry to track down his two large Nike high tops, and as fans began filing into the arena, Allen was the last of his teammates to begin pregame drills.
This, it seems, is the sort of problem that follows Allen as he returns to Comcast Center on Thursday night when Virginia Tech takes on Maryland. It's his first time back in College Park since one of his most infamous moments as a college athlete.
According to those around the Hokies' basketball program, Allen has remodeled himself from an out-of-shape teenager prone to emotional outbursts into a chiseled leader who has at times carried his team during an injury-laden season. But in the process, he's found changing his behavior and changing the public's perception does not happen all at once.
"Everyone wants to single Jeff out, but his transformation is no different than any 18- or 19-year-old to college senior," Virginia Tech Coach Seth Greenberg said. "He understands how to prepare for games. He better understands how to take care of his body. He better interacts probably with everyone involved in the program. But again, Jeff's under a microscope."
The spotlight comes from two separate incidents that, for some, have come to define Allen's tenure in Blacksburg.
As a freshman in 2008, he earned a two-game suspension from the ACC for bumping an official after fouling out in a loss to Georgia Tech. Then, two years ago, Allen was caught on camera making an obscene gesture toward Maryland's fans after fouling out, a transgression that drew a one-game suspension from Virginia Tech. He said afterward that the gesture was in response to a fan's racial slur.
"It was a mistake," Allen said of his last visit to College Park in February 2009. "I made a few mistakes when I was younger. I've moved on from it. Hopefully other people have, but if not, there's really nothing I can do about it right now."
Said Greenberg: "It was definitely, no doubt, a heat-of-the-moment mistake and quite honestly, the manner in which the fans were talking at him and the things they were saying were so egregious, it's a shame that their security did nothing about the situation occurring in the stands."
This time, though, there will be another person in the crowd motivating Allen to stay out of trouble. His daughter, Londyn, was born in May 2009 and will be in attendance to see her father play in front of his hometown crowd for the final time as a collegiate athlete.