Jarrett Allen Carries a New Profile into his Second Nets Training Camp
An untested 19-year-old a year ago, he's secure as the starting center for year two
In all honesty, Jarrett Allen didn't mind being a bit of an unknown quantity at this time a year ago.
He was just 19 years old, the 22nd overall pick in the draft after a single season at the University of Texas. Was he ready to contribute right away? Were G League minutes on Long Island waiting for him?
With an eye-opening rookie year, Allen delivered nothing but good news in year one. Now he's heading into his second NBA training camp more comfortable, more established -- and better known. After media day on Monday, the Nets will get to work Tuesday with a week of practice sessions at HSS Training Center.
"It was nice because you can just go in and just play," said Allen about taking the court for the first time last year. "Now people know who you are. So instead of me having the target on other people's back, now people have the target on my back."
Allen earned the attention with a rookie season that ended with him entrenched as Brooklyn's starting center. He finished up his first season with averages of 8.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in 20.0 minutes per game, but it was his post-New Year's play that put his rapid development on display.
He opened 2018 with a season-high 16 points against the Orlando Magic, a number he would surpass again by the end of the month. He posted his first two career double-doubles in an eight-day span and made his first start on Jan. 30. In 45 games after Jan. 1, Allen averaged 9.7 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 21.9 minutes per game.
"I think it's hard to put him in a box right now," said Nets coach Kenny Atkinson. "Everyday we're learning what type of player he could be. He showed last year he could make a corner three, which we weren't sure that was the case. That's not why we drafted him. We really have to be careful with him because he is so talented. We really have to define his role. It really starts on the defensive end with his rim protection, his versatility, his ability to play pick and roll defense. Obviously the improvement area of rebounding.
"And then offense, he's the guy that puts pressure on the rim for us, whether it's running the court. The guy's an Olympic sprinter. He's just a modern center in the NBA with the way he puts pressure on the rim with his rolling to the rim. We're excited about him. I think he's got a lot in the toolbox."
He's spent most of the summer working out steadily, with a primary focus in the weight room to add muscle to his 6-foot-11 frame. There will be some new frontcourt partners for Allen in the upcoming season, and he's already gotten to work picking up tips from veteran center Ed Davis.
And yes, he's been putting up some 3-pointers. It's all part of reaching out in different directions to find the reach of his game.
"It's showing flashes of what my game possibly could be in the future," said Allen. "It's the potential thing. I still have a long way to go and still don't know exactly what my game is going to be. I'm trying to be able to add little things that I know I can improve on in the future. I'm trying to build the base for things to grow on."
He spent a week-and-a-half in Las Vegas with the Nets Summer League team, though he saw limited action. Allen played in two of five games, averaging 10.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 3.0 blocks in 24.5 minutes per game. It was his first Summer League experience, having missed out last summer after he was drafted due to a hip injury.
Even though he's established himself as an NBA starter, Allen was genuinely excited to play in the field of rookies and undrafted free agents. It was clear though, even in limited action, that Allen was a level above, even though he's still just 20. He felt the difference too, benefiting from his experience over the last year.
"I could tell from people coming straight out of college the game was super-fast and they wanted to go, go, go instead of actually understanding what plays are being run and what situations they need to adjust to," said Allen. "For me, I actually understood that sometimes that wasn't the best thing. Whereas, I feel when I was first here last year I would have been right in the same boat with them."
During his downtime, Allen made a few visits to some of the team's youth basketball events, visiting camps and the annual Elite Youth Tournament at Brooklyn Bridge Park. He stopped by Barclays Center during WWE SummerSlam Week. And of course, he was in the sold-out crowd for the Overwatch League Grand Finals at the arena in July.
Back during the season, Allen had made a trip up to the Overwatch Arena during the Nets' road trip to Los Angeles and met some of the gamers. Comparing his own video game skills to theirs, he rated himself an eighth-grader relative to their NBA-quality skills at the console.
"For me, I've always been into video games," said Allen "To see people play it at its highest level and just being in the crowd knowing what's going on, knowing the plays, the different routes, the different characters they choose, it's nice. I feel like people think about that like basketball, and it's me seeing a whole new sport from a different lens."
A higher profile is part of what's different for Allen than this time a year ago, though he doesn't feel like his life has changed.
"It hasn't been too bad," said Allen. "I'm able to go to the movies without people knowing who I am still. Go shopping at Whole Foods, Target. Do my normal stuff. People still don't know who I am. So far, it's been nice. But I know, people are starting to realize who I am, so I'm more cautious with stuff. But other than that, I've been fine in the city. If people do stop me, it's 'oh hey, have a good season.' And then they're on their way."
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