Jarrett Allen Made a Big First Impression
By Tom Dowd
Most of the work, said Brooklyn Nets coach Kenny Atkinson, is done by general manager Sean Marks and his front office team, sorting through prospects, poring over film and cataloguing possibilities in preparation for the NBA Draft.
"We kind of come in at the end," said Atkinson.
He and the coaches get to check out what Marks' crew has found as they're narrowing things down, and one guy positively jumped out of the crowd.
"When I started watching games games I was immediately … you know," said Atkinson. "It's like when you see a beautiful girl. Wow."
And that was Texas big man Jarrett Allen.
They liked him so much they didn't know if they'd have a chance to bring him to Brooklyn. But there he was as the Nets' turn came around at No. 22 in the first round on Thursday night.
"Jarrett was a lot higher on our board," said Marks. "He was a guy we targeted. We certainly looked to move up in the draft to get him. Thankfully we didn't have to move up. We're thrilled."
Just about 15 hours after Allen's name was called at Barclays Center by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, he was introduced at HSS Training Center accompanied by Marks and Atkinson.
"He's a system fit," said Atkinson. "I know you've heard that a lot of from us. That's obviously real important to our group of coaches here. He does everything you want in a big player. Runs the court. Defends the rim. Has great timing. Great feel for the game. I was really impressed with his passing. I'm up here pinching myself. We got a heck of a player, heck of a young man. Credit to his family. Looking forward to working with him."
The 6-foot-11, 235-pound Allen comes to the Nets after one season at the University of Texas, where he averaged 13.4 points and 8.4 rebounds while shooting 57 percent from the field. His production picked up over the course of his freshman season, as he averaged 16.2 points and 9.8 rebounds in Big 12 play.
After a standout high school career that earned him a berth in the McDonald's All-America game and made him one of the country's most sought-after big man recruits, Allen stayed close to home for college, having grown up just outside of Austin in Round Rock, Texas. And he was pretty comfortable there.
Brooklyn will be a transition.
"It's definitely going to be an adjustment," said Allen. "It's something I'm honestly not that used to. I'm honestly used to a lot more farm land, more trees. I'm going to be happy to be here though. Personally I think I adjust easily."
He's handled a lot just over the last 12 months or so, the whirlwind of making a college choice, adjusting to the college game, and then quickly jumping into the NBA draft process.
"One word, I'll say it's been busy," said Allen. "Busy flying all over the country talking to different people, meeting 10 new people every day. It's hard to remember names sometimes. It's been a good process. I enjoyed it. College you get to pick where you go, in the NBA you don't know. Honestly for me that relieved some of the pressure because I don't have to make a decision, knowing whether it's right or wrong. It kind of relieved some of the pressure for me."
No, this time the choice and it's accompanying pressure was all on the Nets. Fortunately, they were sure of what they were looking for.
"I think 10 years ago when you talk about big men, you want a guy who can really bang, and power, that type of player," said Atkinson. "I'm always on Sean, we need speed and skill and versatility. It sounds like we're talking about a guard. But that's the thing that really stood out about Jarrett was just how fast he was, how versatile he was, what a good passer he was, the skill level."
At 235 pounds, Allen and Atkinson are looking for the newest Net to get to work with the team's performance staff and add some muscle. He'll soon find himself on the court with 7-foot-1, 275-pound Timofey Mozgov.
With Allen having turned 19 years old just two months ago, the muscle will come. The Nets are excited about what's already there. Atkinson expects Allen to contribute this season, and it's an open competition to see how many minutes he can earn. With the Nets' aggressive style, an athletic big man with strong defensive instincts is just what they were looking for.
"The thing that impressed me watching him was his anticipation, his timing," said Atkinson. "That's a big thing, being able to get to the spot before the guy gets his shot off. Amazing timing on his blocked shots without fouling. The moments I did see him switch out on smaller guys, not a problem at all keeping them in front and contesting a shot. It takes an intelligent defender to do that. Probably when you're talking about the No. 1 pieces I'm excited about that's his defensive ability and his defensive IQ."