It felt like Grayson Allen knew what he was doing. It seemed like he knew exactly how people were going to react to it. And it seemed like he wanted it to happen. Toward the end of Duke’s 80-65 win over Florida State, Allen blatantly tripped Seminole’s Xavier Rathan-Mayes and took heavy criticism from the college basketball world. This was just the most recent event in a long series that has made Allen the most hated player in his sport.
To cap off the season last year, Duke took on Wisconsin in the championship game of the NCAA Tournament. Allen, still relatively unknown at the time, sat on the bench at the start of the game. He was a spark for the Blue Devils all season and had the potential to be a star, but a large portion of the 28.3 million TV viewers of this game did not know of his skill. When the freshman checked into the game with 12:17 left to go in the first half, it would be the start of his rise to fame.
Duke was led by proven stars Jahil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justice Winslow amongst others, but Allen stole the show in this Duke win. Scoring 16 points, 12 points higher than his season average, a realization broke out over the college basketball landscape. A realization that this 5-star recruit was going to become a household name in the very near future. After close to seven months of waiting since last April’s national title game, the evolution has officially begun.
Duke took the floor against lowly Siena to start this 2015-16 season; a game that should have had little to no significance in the grand scheme of the entire season. But this was the beginning of Allen’s reign over Duke basketball. Comparisons to Christian Laettner and J.J. Reddick were being tossed around by the anxious fan base, and they wouldn’t disappoint. Allen scored a career high, at the time, of 26 points and rolled through the first five games averaging 24.4 points per contest. If the Jacksonville, Florida native’s name wasn’t on the map already, he was officially on the radar of all college basketball fans.
Allen was Duke basketball’s poster boy. The team was rolling with a 14-2 record, and Allen hadn’t slowed down from his hot start. Then came the first real losing streak of the young player’s career. Losing 4 out of 7 games, Duke was reeling and so was the sophomore. During a game against Louisville, Allen’s emotions spoiled over, and he blatantly tripped an opposing player for Louisville. The play was put on repeat on all the major sports networks, and the hatred began. Now the comparisons to Laettner continued, but this time in terms of his demeanor and attitude. All of a sudden there was a target on Allen, and people were waiting for him to make his next slip up.
With hatred still pouring throughout the college basketball season, Allen had one of the most defining plays of his career. As time expired against nationally ranked Virginia, Allen drove into the lane and shot a fade away, off-balanced shot to win the game. Cameron Indoor Stadium erupted in it’s loudest cry of the year. But here’s the catch: he traveled. After slow motion replay, Allen came down and took three steps before he shot it. But that was too little too late, and the game was over. Social media went into a frenzy. Of course, of all people, Allen would beat a top 10 opponent with a game winning shot where he traveled. The blogosphere wasn’t upset at the referee that missed the call, but they were treating Allen as if he purposely won the game that way. The same guy that tripped an opposing player also cheated to win a game, they said.
Is Allen the evil villain that the college basketball community treats him as? He’s a young player who knows he has talent, and for a lot of people, that comes off as cocky and arrogant. Less than one year ago, he was a minor role player and was not very well known. Now, he’s a monster in peoples eyes. Whether this is how he wants to be viewed, this series of events in Allen’s career has added him to the long line of hated Duke players. From Laettner to Reddick, there’s a new name on the block. And people hate him just as much.