By LARRY VAUGHT
Pendleton County senior Dontaie Allen was having a monster season when he suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 13th game of the year.
He was the top scorer in the United States at 45.7 points per game and was also averaging 14 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 3.1 blocks and 1.8 steals per game. He was on pace to finish his prep career with about 4,200 points and 1,450 rebounds depending on Pendleton’s postseason success. Even though he’s not played in over a month, he is still third in total point scored (558) in Kentucky this year.
Pendleton County coach Keaton Belcher knows it might be a long shot, but he believes that Allen should still be considered for Mr. Basketball honors in Kentucky despite his injury — and I agree.
“I am biased obviously but the kid is a remarkable young man. He is a great role model for any student, player or coach. Teachers rave about his respect and kindness towards others,” Belcher said.
The coach understands that some Mr. Basketball or all-state voters might have trouble voting for a player injured midway of his 13th game. But in his career he still has 3,255 points, 995 rebounds, 357 assists, 284 blocks and 191 steals in 118 games. He made 246 of 652 3-pointers and 776 of 995 free throws.
“He has signed a letter of intent for a full athletic scholarship to play basketball at the University of Kentucky, and he did it the right way. He stayed loyal to Pendleton County when he could have went elsewhere,” Belcher, who played at Belmont College, said. “He is one of the best teammates I’ve ever coached. Never blames anyone else after a dropped pass or a loss or a missed shot. Very humble kid.”
Allen was the first Kentucky player invited to play in this year’s Kentucky-Ohio All-Star Game — obviously he cannot do that now — and he’s also played in 12 of the state’s 16 regions.
“We have done a pretty good job of showcasing him around the state, and we played against at least one team from all 16 regions at some point in his career,” Belcher said about the feat I doubt that many players can match.
Pendleton County Supt. Joe Buerkley certainly is a Dontaie Allen fan and says there should be no doubt that Allen is a “legitimate” Mr. Basketball candidate.
“If you allowed all other possible (Mr. Basketball) candidates to choose their best 13 games of the year and then compared that to his senior season I doubt there would be much debate,” Buerkley said. “Dontaie’s stats speak for themselves. I think the fact that he hasn’t played in over a month and is still currently third in total points scored proves that.
“He was having a special year that was unfortunately cut short due to injury, but that doesn’t change the fact that he is the best male senior basketball player in the state this year.”
I watched Allen play this season and also interviewed him at his high school where is seems everyone loves him. But he’s also had opponents’ cheerleaders ask to take pictures with him and at the Marshall County Hoop Fest signed autographs for a long period of time for fans of all ages.
“Dontaie has handled everything with great poise. Initially, he was upset like any teenager would be. To not be able to finish his senior year the way he wanted to has been the biggest disappointment. He is determined to conquer this set-back with the work ethic that he’s always displayed,” Belcher said.
What about the coach and the fans? How have they been since Allen’s injury stopped his magical season?
“The last month has been difficult for myself, our staff, our team and our community. We got really spoiled watching Dontaie play basketball the last five years and it ended in the blink of an eye,” Belcher said. “He is an exceptional talent, but also an exceptional person.”
Belcher said everyone was emotional when they found out Allen would not play again this season. However, the coach found a different perspective for the injury to help Allen.
“I have sort of told Dontaie that he can enjoy these last five months of being a regular high school student. He’s always sort of been in the spotlight and has had pressure put on him to perform. Now he can be a fan of the game and support his teammates,” Belcher said.
The coach believes there is a “realistic” chance Allen can be Mr. Basketball, an honor he certainly would have won if he had been able to keep playing and putting up numbers like he had before he was hurt.
“The numbers he was putting up before the injury really have never been seen since Ervin Stepp and Kelly Coleman. He was leading the United States in scoring! Do you know how hard that is?” Belcher said. “He was doing it against junk defenses and double-teams. And it wasn’t like we weren’t winning. We had nine wins and three losses before the injury.
“I can understand some people who choose not to vote for him because he only played in 13 games as a senior, but I do think a lot of people will vote for him because the cartoonish season he was having. Not to mention, he had already signed with Kentucky, which always helps. I think he deserves Mr. Basketball because he would be a great ambassador for our state.”