University of Mary Hardin-Baylor guard James Allen had something to prove before he even got to campus.
Despite being an all-county performer at The Woodlands College Park, UMHB was the only school that recruited Allen and offered him a chance to play at the collegiate level.
“I just wanted to show them what I could do and the skills that I had to bring to the team,” Allen said.
Thus far, Allen has made UMHB glad it recruited him, serving as the Cru’s catalyst on both ends of the court this season. Allen leads the team with 19.5 points per game and 26 steals; and is hitting 45 percent from 3-point range. He’s also hauling in 4.4 rebounds per game and is playing 32.5 minutes per contest.
Allen and the Cru look for their sixth American Southwest Conference win in the last eight games on Wednesday when they visit the University of Texas at Dallas.
The guard has done his part in helping UMHB during this hot streak. Allen has been held below 20 points just once in the last three weeks and lit up East Texas Baptist for 29 and Concordia University for 27 during that time.
Cru coach Ken DeWeese knows how important Allen is to the team just by putting himself in the shoes of opposing coaches.
“If I was going to play us, we would do everything to control James Allen and we’d feel like we’d have a chance to win,” DeWeese said. “That’s how important he is to us.”
Allen was named ASC Men’s Basketball Player of the Week for Dec. 15-21 after averaging 23.5 points per game and shooting 59 percent from beyond the arc. It was his third Player of the Week honor in his collegiate career.
Although Allen is having another good season this year, the seeds for it were planted over the summer.
As a junior, Allen helped the Cru advance to the NCAA Division III championship game where UMHB fell to Amherst College 87-70.
UMHB graduated four seniors from the 2012-13 team and Allen knew he had to step up this year.
“I knew coming in that I had that responsibility of being one of the leaders and giving our team (a chance) to be one of the best teams in the conference,” Allen said.
Thus far the work has paid off as Allen has raised his average from 13.1 last year and has improved his 3-point shooting from 27 percent last season to 45 this year.
“It just adds another dimension to his game,” DeWeese said. “His main game is going to the basket on the dribble drive, and now that he’s got a very consistent 3-point shot, it’s made him very difficult to guard.”
Allen knows that in March all it takes is for a team to get hot down the stretch to make a run at the title.
Last season the Cru won 11 of its final 12 regular season games and used that momentum to make it to the ASC title game before rattling off four straight NCAA Tournament wins.
“We have the heart to be able to beat the teams ranked ahead of us and that gives us more confidence in ourselves that we could go out and make it to the championship,” Allen said.