Allen Adjusting to Role in Post
Dec. 18, 2006
The crowd is growing restless. Though it is still early in the game, the visitors are on an 8-0 run, and looking to extend the lead. The home squad is desperate to stop the bleeding. The ball goes into the low post, where the tall, lanky center takes possession, makes a strong move to the basket, and lays it off the glass and in. The crowd erupts.
It sounds like the basics of basketball, but it's the new Ben Allen in the flesh.
"Coach Sampson feeds Ben more than anything, telling him he can be the best big man in the conference," junior guard A.J. Ratliff says. "When he made that post move against Charlotte, Coach kept telling him, `This is what I'm talking about.'"
It may sound like an oxymoron, but the 6-11 center is adjusting to his new role of becoming a presence in the low post. As one of the few big men on the 2006-07 Hoosiers, Allen will be counted on to grind out a season as a post player in the ultra-physical Big Ten, something that he hasn't necessarily had to do that much of before this year.
"Back home, I was playing inside, but I was more of an inside-outside player," says the Melbourne, Australia native. "I've played inside before, and the stuff I'm doing down there isn't totally foreign to me, but it's not second nature either. I like shooting threes."
As for the adjustment for Allen, it hasn't been a total reconstruction, just a change in mentality and attitude.
"It hasn't been that hard," Allen says. "It's just figuring out that I have to go to the boards every time instead of hanging out at the three-point line waiting for a three. I'm 6-11, I need to post up and go to work in there on guys that aren't going to be able to block my shot when I take post moves. Coach [Rob] Senderoff has been working with the big guys on a lot of post moves, being aggressive down there, making assertive moves and not fading away."
Allen began playing basketball when he was five years old, but didn't emerge as a big-time player until his teens. After a growth spurt of a "couple of inches" in his sophomore year, Allen stood a healthy 6-11, and helped his team win the under-16 state championship. But even though he was one of the biggest players on the team, he continued to ply his outside game as well.
"I started working on threes when I was 14 or 15," Allen says. "That's when I figured out that I could shoot, so as well as playing inside, I was stepping outside as well. It helped to create trouble for the defense."
But with the arrival of Kelvin Sampson came a new emphasis on rebounding for Allen and his teammates, and so far the Hoosiers have outrebounded all of their opponents this season. So what is the secret formula Sampson uses to get his team to work hard on the boards?
"He yells at us and makes us run if we don't," Allen quips.
"He puts the bubble up there so every shot is going to miss, and it forces you to go to the rebound - you can't just stand and watch because you know it's going to miss," the sophomore continues. "When the bubble's not on, sometimes if it goes in, there's no point in running in there to rebound, but when the bubble's on there it gets you in the mindset that every shot is going to miss and good rebounders have that mentality."
The results have shown so far for Allen, who was third on the team in rebounds with 21, and his 11 offensive boards were just one shy of the team lead before sitting out the last two games due to illness. He is quick to give Sampson all the credit for his improved aggressiveness on the glass.
"Coach Sampson's really working hard with me on that, and I think I'm improving," Allen says. "I'm going after balls, chasing them down, not letting them come to me anymore. I think that's going to be a very important part of this team is having everyone rebound like that."
Despite his obvious improvement over the last several games, Allen is far from satisfied with his progress. The sophomore is even receiving advice from his former coach in Australia, Scott Christiansen.
"He knows how I can play and that I'm not playing up to my potential right now," Allen says. "He just said, `Keep going at it. Keep working hard. Get extra shots up every day to get your confidence up'
"I'm kind of in a bit of a rut right now where I'm needing to get more confidence," he adds. "The last few games, I've definitely felt better out there, but the first few games, I was getting lost out there and didn't know what I was really doing. Now, I'm kind of finding myself really improving, and it's going to be good to get more games under my belt and get more confidence."
For the Indiana faithful, Allen's improvement has been a welcome upgrade on the inside. And should he continue his upward progress, he and junior D.J. White could form one of the most formidable inside duos in the Big Ten.
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