Time flies. Only a couple of years ago, Trevon Allen was a precocious sophomore riding the coattails of talented, disciplined, mature upperclassmen like Victor Sanders, B.J. Blake, Nate Sherwood, Perrion Callendret, Jordan Scott and Arkadiy Mkrtychyan on an Idaho Vandals team than finished 22-9 overall and 14-4 in the Big Sky Conference.
That bunch was the product of the stable coaching philosophy and vision of Don Verlin, who had been at Idaho for a decade. The Vandals took a big step back last year and went just 5-27. But a young squad hoped to make the hard lessons of early playing time the foundation for another run at finishing high in the Big Sky this season.
However, Verlin was summarily fired last summer in the wake of alleged NCAA violations, and now, as the lone senior, Allen finds himself as both the star and the sage on a Vandals team that had to redefine itself on the fly after seven players left the program, and Zac Claus was elevated from an assistant’s role and appointed interim coach. This version of Idaho basketball has struggled to a 7-20 record, 3-13 in the conference.
It is not how Allen hoped to be remembered. In getting to this point, though, he has discovered that a basketball career is more than a won-loss record. It may be harder to quantify, but perseverance, cheerfulness in the face of challenge and supporting younger teammates will be key elements of his legacy.
“He’s a treat to be around,” Claus said. “He’s a kid who has got a smile on his face every day. A wonderful temperament.
“He is a great ambassador for our program and this university.
Quinton Forrest came to the Vandals as a graduate transfer this season after unsatisfying stops at Bethune-Cookman and Jacksonville. In Allen, Forrest found a teammate who is both optimistic and a leader.
“He’s phenomenal. Another guy with experience. He makes this a lot easier. He has been consistent all year. A guy I look up to. When I’m down I can rely on him,” Forrest says.
As Allen has made his way through the season down to the final few Big Sky games before the league tournament, he is savoring the simple pleasure of playing college basketball, and he has embraced the challenge of leading a young team.
“I’m cherishing the travel trips,” he says. “It’s my last year.” A final opportunity to play at Eastern Washington, Montana, Montana State and Weber State is not something he takes lightly, even as his career breaks along an unambiguous fault line of early success and late failure.
“My first two years were in a winning environment. I kicked off my career here playing with such a great group of guys,” Allen said.
The past two seasons “are almost like a test.” But he has found “the biggest motivation is getting to play the game.”
Personally, he is going out with a bang.
Allen, a Clarkston High graduate, is Idaho’s leading scorer this season and the second-leading scorer in the Big Sky with an average of nearly 21 points per game. He has topped 30 in back-to-back games against Montana and Eastern Washington and is Idaho’s 10th all-time scorer, with 1,264 points. Allen was recently surprised to learn he is high on the list of most games played for the Vandals. He and Ricardo Boyd (1987-91) are tied for fourth at 121 games. With four regular-season games and at least one tournament game remaining, Allen could tie Kyle Barone (2009-13) for second with 126 games played, behind all-time games played leader Stephen Madison (2010-14) at 129 games.
When the Vandals changed coaches before his senior season. “I was put in a tough situation,” Allen acknowledges. “It was regrettable.”
But his decision to remain at Idaho and deal with the uncertainty of trying to forge a team from new players and a new coaching staff also settled things.
“I decided to stick around. Personally, for me, it has been a good season,” he says. Allen told Claus he would play wherever he was needed to help the Vandals, and through the year he has played at both guard positions and at small forward.
Allen would like to play basketball professionally after he leaves Idaho. He has already been contacted by nearly a dozen agents, he says. While he is focusing on his senior season with the Vandals, Allen forwards agents’ inquiries to his father Alan Allen, who played football at Idaho and later had a three-year career in the World League of American Football.
In some ways Allen’s career mirrors that of Sanders. The two share a birthday and have remained in contact as Sanders has built a career as a professional player in Belgium. Like Allen, Sanders was the acknowledged Vandals’ leader when he was a senior. Sanders is Idaho’s second-all-time scorer, second in career 3-point shots made and is one game behind Allen in games played for the Vandals.
Sanders seemingly had the ability to bend time and physics to his will with hesitation moves and elongated dribbles. These are showing up in Allen’s game.
“He’s taking from Vic’s strengths,” says Claus.
Their personalities are not identical. Allen says he takes pride in leading by example and with positive reinforcement. Sanders brought a sterner demeanor to the job. But in Sanders’ successful 22-win season and in Allen’s difficult 7-win final campaign there is a key similarity between the current team leader and one of Idaho’s all-time greats.
“In terms of counting on one guy to score the ball,” says Claus, “they both shouldered that load.”
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