Blue Devil at Heart

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Blue Devil at Heart

Why Duke’s Grayson Allen Should be Respected and Cherished, Not Hated

Dirtiest player in college hoops.

Immature. Childish. Disrespectful. A rat. Just another spoiled, white Duke University basketball player. Spoon-fed. An additional reason why everyone hates Duke.

It’s truly interesting how the world works – how society operates. When a 22-year old student-athlete, a 22-year old kid gets villianized by the media, by millions of people for silly on-court blunders.

The most hated player in college basketball? Incredible.

A 22-year old kid.

Allow me to flip the script and tell you a story about who should be the most respected athlete in college basketball. At one point an 18-year old freshman turned hero, who has grown from a teenager into a man in the public eye on the grandest stage of college sports, for not only one of the most prestigious institutions in the world, but quite possible the most esteemed basketball program in the entire world.

Grayson Allen. The 22-year guard for the Duke Blue Devils is so much more than the habitual line-stepper that he has been perceived to be. There is more to him than the tripping instances that has cast a dark cloud over his name. Grayson Allen is a senior set to enter the tournament, that initially created the hype around him, for the last time.

March Madness is about to commence. This will be Allen’s final go-around.

One of the best Blue Devils of all time, Allen became a star on the National Tournament stage in 2015. Averaging just 4.4-points and nine minutes per contest on the season, Allen checked into what would become the biggest game of his life. A relatively unknown, skinny and shy kid out Jacksonville, Florida checked in for the Blue Devils and poured in 16-points, including eight straight down the stretch.

The emotion, the will to win, the intensity, it was all so evident. Allen wanted it more than anybody. He wasn’t Jahlil Okafor, or Frank Kaminsky, or Sam Dekker, or Justice Winslow, but that National Tournament Finals stage was his and he owned it. As Dick Vitale said repeatedly, a star was born.

From there, Allen only got better, evolving into the leader of a young Duke team and asserting himself into the conversation of potential options for NBA teams to consider once he would move on from College. He can shoot, he can drive aggressively to the basket and absorb contact, he plays with his heart on his sleeve, he’s a competitor, and of course, a national champion.

But after such a memorable run to the championship in his freshman year, more floor time exposed Allen to a string of immature tripping acts, which created that infamous Duke Blue Devils villain persona for Allen, very much in the mold of a Christian Laettner or a J.J. Redick.

Yet with all the hate spewed his way, all the negativity thrown on the shoulders of a 22-year old kid, Allen showed his true character. While fans and media could not simply leave his tripping acts on the court and simply just realize how competitive this young shooting guard, Allen has handled every situation with maturity and grace. He addressed the media, he answered the difficult questions, he dealt with the consequences like a man, standing up to more adversity than any other student-athlete in his position ever deserves to face.

“Yes,” Head Coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a recent conversation with Charles Barkley on NBA on TNT, dismissing Allen’s acts as plainly part of the game. “I’ve had a really good program for over 3 decades. I’m used to people making a mountain out of a molehill along the way. That goes with the territory.

“If you wanna be one of the top teams and want to do it year after year, people look at you closely. Hopefully they see great things along with the things you’d rather have them not talk about.”

Allen recently was celebrated as one of the program’s best on senior’s night. After falling in the ACC tournament, he will return to the stage that helped create the Grayson Allen brand. He will step on the National Championship floor for the last time. Ironically, as the curtain closes on his collegiate basketball career, the most immature individuals in his controversial tenure with Duke was everyone around him.

And the 22-year old man has overcome it all. He has put in the work consistently. Unlike many NBA-bound players, Allen spent four-years in college, he was named to the ACC all-academic team for his relentless hard work and dedication in the class room, something very often overlooked.

Too many, Grayson Allen will always be one of the most hated players in college basketball. To myself, he is one of the most respected young players to ever step foot on Division I basketball floor.

For a program as revered as that of Duke University, I tip my hat to Allen for his perseverance. We all should. He is a Blue Devil at heart and now, we get to watch him take on his final ride with Duke through the National Tournament.

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