The 6-foot-3 guard from DeMatha Catholic began his career at Drexel, where he started all but two games as a freshman. Then he learned a new system after transferring to Central Florida to play for Washington native and former Duke great Johnny Dawkins, helping the Knights to the second round of the NCAA tournament last season, where they lost to the Blue Devils in one of March Madness’s most thrilling offerings.
The first two transfers required Coach Patrick Ewing to do some on-court reconfiguring while he simultaneously dealt with off-court issues: A public records search early this month showed a temporary restraining order had been granted in D.C. Superior Court against LeBlanc and Alexander following a complaint filed by a Georgetown student that included allegations of burglary, threats of bodily harm and verbal threats.
“He did have something that we needed, for a time like this,” Ewing said Wednesday when asked what he thought of Allen when he was recruiting the point guard during the offseason. “We didn’t know if James was going to get hurt. We did need another point guard, and I think that now that [Allen’s] getting extended minutes, he’s showing his worth.”
Though he is by nature a pass-first point guard — a predilection that suits his quiet demeanor — Allen can be a scoring presence as well.
In two momentous wins over previously undefeated teams last week, the graduate student stepped into the starting role seamlessly. At Oklahoma State, he scored 15 points and dished five assists in 33 minutes. At SMU, he let others do the scoring, taking just three shots for two points but logging 10 assists while not committing a turnover.
Allen's teammates, who counted him as a crucial addition to the team even before the season began because of his NCAA tournament experience, praised him Wednesday for being a steady hand.
“Terrell, he’s definitely a vet,” sophomore guard Mac McClung said. “I’ve seen him play at UCF, and he always makes the right play. He’s one of the most solid point guards I’ve ever played with.”
While senior guard Jagan Mosely said Wednesday that the team was caught off guard by Akinjo’s and LeBlanc’s decisions to leave, Allen said it was no trouble recalibrating in the wake of the departures.
“I don’t think it matters if you’re a starting point guard or a backup point guard. I feel like you still have the same role when you go out there: Control the team, lead the team as best you can, get other people involved, and take the shots that you have,” Allen said. “ … It was an easy transition because a lot of people on the team like to move the ball and like to have fun out there. That’s something that I wanted to bring coming in — just to be able to have fun, be able to move the ball, let everybody get a share.”
Allen’s easygoing, on-court generosity spread throughout the team during last week’s road trip. Mosely said that’s how the native of Upper Marlboro, Md., is making his mark as a leader despite his soft-spoken nature and the fact that he’s new to the program.
“The last time I heard Terrell really speak up was halftime at the Mount St. Mary’s game,” Mosely said, speaking of the team’s season opener more than a month ago. “He doesn’t really need to be vocal; he’s more of a leader by example.”
Ewing has challenged Allen to assert himself more, both as a vocal leader in the locker room and when it comes to taking open shots. But he, Mosely and McClung also appreciate how Allen’s pass-first mentality has helped spur ball movement in an offense that often sputtered earlier in the season.
The Hoyas compiled 26 assists at SMU, easily their season high, and 16 at Oklahoma State.
Ewing spoke after the Hoyas’ previous home game, a loss to UNC Greensboro, of needing to play selflessly. McClung said the Hoyas finally heard Ewing’s message for the two road games last week.
“We stepped up. Coach talked to us about putting ‘we’ before ‘me,’ and I think we moved the ball a lot more and we kind of realized we’re not going to win games unless we play as a team and play together,” he said. “I think we played a lot more together the last two games — it’s a lot more fun. I feel like everybody was excited for each other.”