By LARRY VAUGHT
What kind of impact did Dontaie Allen’s verbal commitment to play basketball at Kentucky make in Pendleton County?
“Right after he committed on Aug. 2 everyone’s chest stuck out a little more around here,” said Pendleton County coach Keaton Belcher, a former Pendleton player. “We have about 15,000 residents. It’s a very rural community and we’ve never had anything like this happen before. People don’t know a lot about Pendleton County.
“We get forgotten a lot. We are not considered northern Kentucky or central Kentucky. But his commitment made everyone really proud to be from Pendleton County. It shows you can be from a small town and still do great things. It just took him a while to get seen by the right people. Some high major coaches are hesitant about recruiting a kid like Dontaie because they don’t think we play the best competition and he didn’t get the exposure he needed until last summer.”
Belcher likes to compare him to a player who came out of Hyden, Ky. — quarterback Tim Couch. He came to UK, found the right offense under Hal Mumme and was the No. 1 overall pick in the NFL draft after his junior year at Kentucky.
“I’ve always thought Dontaie was high major because of his size, skills and work ethic. He can play,” Belcher said.
Belcher played college basketball at Belmont University in Nashville and helped the Bruins reach the NCAA Tournament in 2006, 2007 and 2008. He was team captain his senior year and played in a school record 131 games. One of his Belmont teammates was Ian Clark, who averaged 14.9 points per game Belcher’s senior season in 2009-10. He now plays for the New Orleans Pelicans with former UK star Anthony Davis.
“Dontaie is farther along now than Ian Clark was at the same time. That’s another reason I think Dontaie can eventually play in the NBA,” Belcher said. “He can score at every level. I have not really seen anybody yet shut Dontaie down. He’s a guy that is afraid to fail and he puts in the work to succeed.”
The 6-7 Allen averaged 31.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game last season when he shot 59.1 percent from the field, including 40 percent from 3-point range. He goes into his senior season with 2,697 points, including two 50-point games, and 1,044 rebounds. He’s had 56 double-doubles in 105 high school games.
With his commitment to UK, Allen knows a lot of Kentucky fans will turn out to watch Pendleton County games.
“It is definitely going to be a fun ride this season,” he said.
His favorite UK players to watch when he was growing up were 10th Region star Darius Miller of Mason County, Anthony Davis and John Wall.
“Darius is someone I always looked up to being from the10th Region. That was really big to me,” Allen said. “We both shoot the 3 well. I think shooting is what I do best, but I think I can drive, too. However, I would probably give a nod to my shooting as my strength. But I loved the overall games that John Wall and Anthony Davis had.
“I think I am an underrated passer. I really like passing and even though I shoot a lot, I can still get the team involved and do the right things for the team. Defensively I can get down in a stance and hold my man and get blocks off the ball.”
Allen takes little for granted. When he got back from a Virginia Beach vacation this summer, the first thing he did was show up in the gym to start shooting.
“It’s just a combination of God-given ability — some have it, some don’t — and his work ethic that makes him so good,” Belcher said. “He has played basketball literally from the time he was born. All he will do is eat, sleep and breathe basketball. He has gained valuable knowledge on just how to play the game.
“Dontaie will work out on his own. That’s what separates him from a lot of players because his work ethic is off the charts. Routinely during his sophomore and junior years he was in the gym by 6:30 a.m. The freshman year we actually did it at 7 (a.m.) but he wanted to move it to 6:30 his sophomore year, so we did. About 70 percent of the time he’s in there by himself. But that’s just how he is.”