Two years ago, Whitney Allen was attending a private high school in Ohio that did not offer girls' basketball. Last season, back at Woodbridge, she was a reserve on a squad teeming with seniors, just a name in a box score filled with more prominent players.
So the fact that Allen is now earmarked to suit up for George Washington University next season has made for quite an under-the-radar rise for the 5-foot-11 forward, unlike the easy-to-chart progress of Hylton guard Jasmine Byrd, the area's only other Division I women's basketball signee (North Carolina-Greensboro) to date this winter.
Allen, averaging 13.8 points and about seven rebounds and three steals for the Vikings (13-3), is unusual in other ways, as well. A forward with guard skills, she can take a defensive rebound coast-to-coast for a layup, even dribbling the ball behind her back to elude a defender en route.
"I don't know that we've had a kid [in the area] who could do that," Woodbridge Coach George Washington said of Allen's end-to-end game.
By virtue of her aggressiveness and, at times, flashiness, Allen hears steady "you play like a guy" commentary. There is a reason for her playing style -- the year she lived in Ohio, she competed in a coed church league that was coed in name only. Allen, who played junior varsity ball at Woodbridge her freshman season, figures there were only two females participating in the Ohio league.
"If I had played [at Woodbridge] in 10th grade, I think I'd be a lot smarter and a lot better player right now, but I'm happy with the way it turned out," said Allen, who can grab the rim and believes she is about three inches of elevation away from being able to dunk, a personal goal. "I continued to play and kept my passion for [basketball]. I don't think anything really changed that [sophomore] year, I just didn't play with the girls."
One female she has learned a lot from is Woodbridge graduate Tamika Dudley, the Vikings' summer league coach and reigning Northeast Conference player of the year at Long Island University. Dudley, who this season could set LIU career records for scoring and assists, encouraged Allen to shoot more jumpers and handle the ball, areas Allen is exploring in full this season after honing some rusty fundamentals last year.
With eight players new to the Woodbridge team, Allen has been forced into a teaching role, while at the same time still learning a lot herself. When receiving instruction and tips this winter, more than once she has demanded of Washington, "Why didn't you tell me this last year?" The answer: "You weren't ready."
But now Allen is capable of mastering more nuances, something George Washington (the school and the coach) figured would happen.
"I think athleticism is overrated because that's what everybody's looking for now," Washington said. "There are a whole bunch of kids who are real good, but how much better are they going to get? They way Whitney works and the things she does and how she tries to learn the game, she's not going to do anything but get better.
"And boy, I feel sorry for everybody, and I really feel sorry for the people who missed out on her."