Temple's Lavoy Allen has quietly had a spectacular career

Lavoy Allen is about to become Temple's fifth career 1,000-point, 1,000-rebound player.
Lavoy Allen is about to become Temple's fifth career 1,000-point, 1,000-rebound player.
Posted: January 31, 2011

Lavoy Allen has a problem.

His high school coach, Frank Sciolla, understands the problem. Unfortunately, he does not have a solution.

"I always said to him. 'If you would just get a tattoo, if you would just start beating your chest and pointing to the sky, maybe an occasional flex, maybe a technical here or there, the fan base would love you so much more,' " said Sciolla, who coached Allen at Pennsbury High.

Allen is what we always say we want in a player - unselfish, team-oriented, fundamentally sound. It is never about him.

"If you would have come up in the '60s, you may have been more popular, but right now, you're just in a tough era," Sciolla once told Allen.

Fans don't do subtle. They want tangible.

"The demands of everyone have always been he's not dominant," Sciolla said.

No, he is not. Nor is he ever likely to be. Still, there are those three Atlantic 10 championships. There is the defensive IQ that is off the charts. And there are 6, 7, perhaps 8 weeks of college basketball left for Lavoy Allen to explain with his play what he has been about all along.

The numbers keep piling up. He needs five rebounds to become the fifth Temple player to score 1,000 points and get 1,000 rebounds. He needs 48 rebounds to break John Baum's school record. And there are all those games Temple has won.

The Owls senior forward came late to the game. No travel programs as a kid, nothing organized. He was on his eighth-grade middle school team. Sciolla thinks he was the fifth leading scorer.

"He played on a really mediocre ninth grade team and scored about five points a game," Sciolla said.

The high school team had voluntary workouts in the spring and summer.

"Some come and some don't," Sciolla said. "And he did. As he did, he started wanting to do more beyond just coming to the team skill-level stuff. We did a lot of one-on-one stuff. He just progressed from a middling, 6-4 ninth-grader to a guy who started on the varsity as a 10th-grader."

Why basketball? Well, he was tall.

"I was always taller than other people," Allen said "I guess other kids in school just making fun of me for being that tall and not being able to dunk and jump. That's what got me into it."

Once he got into it, he stayed into it.

"I didn't know anything about basketball except playing on the playground," Allen said. "I came a long way."

Indeed.

"I was at every workout on time and ready to get better," Allen said. "I pushed myself through it. Even times when I thought about quitting, I just kept going through it. This is where it got me today."

When Allen came to Sciolla's workouts, he was a laboratory experiment.

"He had zero habits so he had no bad habits," Sciolla said.

So he learned the fundamentals. He learned defensive positioning. He was as eager to pass as to score. He wanted to be a rebounder.

"At no point was he ever the guy who went out and scored 30 points a game or played on the AAU or travel circuit where he was the star," Sciolla said. "He never had that mentality. A lot of people love his unselfish mentality and there are people who don't like it."

And they are never going to like it. What most do not understand is the journey that Allen has taken to get to this stage.

"The expectations on him jumped so fast whereas you have a Dalton Pepper, who's on the national radar in sixth grade," Sciolla said.

Pepper was 2 years behind Allen at Pennsbury and eventually was the state player of the year. He is now a sophomore at West Virginia.

"When [Allen] was in the 10th grade, guys within our league didn't even consider him one of the best big guys, just within the Suburban One National there were other guys who were more highly touted," Sciolla said. "They never played college basketball and he just kept improving."

In Allen's junior year, during the playoffs, Chris Mooney, the Richmond coach and a longtime friend of Sciolla's, told him that, "Allen makes some plays that bigger people don't make [anymore]."

In his senior year, he blew up at the Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina, playing against some of the best high school players in the country. Now here he is, on the verge of some legendary numbers and a few NCAA wins away from putting a perfect period on the end of a wonderful career. Still . . .

"I was actually contemplating getting a tattoo over winter break," Allen said. "That fell through. If I showed emotion like the guys that are screaming and doing things like that on the court, people would appreciate me more. That's not the way I am."

And that is not going to change.

"For everything that people say he doesn't have, I'll say here's one thing he does," Sciolla said. "He does want to win and he's motivated by that. I've been in locker rooms where we've won and kids have scored four points and had a long face. He likes the team dynamic."

It shows in how he plays.

"Lavoy Allen was the best I'd ever seen at making up for other people's mistakes on the defensive end," Sciolla said. "He doesn't talk much, but on the court, he's very vocal."

He did not appear at Temple as a McDonald's All-American, but he will be leaving a few years shy of entering the Big 5 Hall of Fame.

Allen's numbers are a bit down this season, but he did have 30 points and 23 rebounds in two games last week. He is getting recognized for his achievements at Temple tonight in Cherry Hill at the annual Philadelphia Sports Writers Association Awards Dinner.

Sciolla went to Temple a few weeks ago to speak with Allen and told him this: "The next 8 weeks are going to have a lot to do with how you're remembered here."

Allen knows.

"If we don't finish this year out strong, people are going to forget what's been going on the last 3 years," Allen said. "I just have to produce more for my teammates."

With Allen, it is always about the team.

"I would love to win a couple [NCAA games]," Allen said. "Going out there the last 3 years and losing, that really sends a bad message to people. That's another criticism we have to live with."

In another era, just winning would have been enough. In 2011, it's sometimes how you win and almost always when you win. Six weeks from now, Temple's Lavoy Allen will get one final chance at college basketball's biggest stage and an opportunity to show just how far he has come and how much he has learned.

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