ASHEVILLE, N.C. — Jaylen Allen, like most young basketball players, grew up dreaming of playing in the NCAA tournament.
That dream will come true during his freshman year.
Allen, a Johnson City native, is a key member of the Wofford College team that won the Southern Conference tournament on Monday night. The Terriers beat Western Carolina 56-53 in the championship game.
“You grow up watching those games and how hard those guys compete out there,” Allen said. “Sometimes the little teams beat the big teams. Hopefully we can be one of those little teams that beat the big teams and just keep on dancing.”
Allen, who transferred from Science Hill to Christ School in Asheville during his high school career, came into the SoCon tournament averaging around 5 points a game, and that’s exactly what he provided for the Terriers. He opened with 10 points against The Citadel in the quarterfinals followed by a seven-minute scoreless stint against Georgia Southern in the semifinals.
He scored five in the championship game victory over a Western Carolina team that surprised heavy favorite Davidson a day earlier.
In the final, Allen swished a 3-point shot from the left corner and later beat the defense down the court, waved his arm asking for a pass, and made a nice catch on the run before making the layup.
“He had a terrific game against the Citadel in here on Saturday,” Wofford coach Mike Young said. “On a night when we needed him to step to the plate, he did. And he had a huge 3 for our team here in the second half (of the final) which was a big shot for us.”
The championship game, at U.S. Cellular Center, was played in front of a raucous crowd of 5,799 and televised by ESPN2.
“I loved it,” Allen said. “The bigger the crowd, I feel the better I play. I think I played pretty good. I had fun. I’m glad my teammates had fun.”
This will be Wofford’s third trip to the NCAA tournament in five years. The Terriers previously lost to Wisconsin and BYU.
“We’ve been working hard every day in practice,” Allen said. “We talk about paying our rent and we pay our rent every day, and here we are.”
Allen played in all 32 of Wofford’s games, starting six of them. His 13-point effort against Williams & Mary earlier in the season was his high game and it capped a stretch in which he scored in double figures in four consecutive games.
“He’s had a heck of a freshman year for us,” said Young, whose team will take a 20-12 record into the NCAA tournament. “He’s our first guard off the bench. He’s a great teammate.
“He’s a wonderful young man and we’re fortunate to have him. I look forward to seeing him take the floor in his first NCAA tournament as part of our program.”
Allen can’t help but look forward to next season when Wofford will play his hometown school East Tennessee State when the Bucs re-join the SoCon.
“That’ll be pretty interesting,” he said. “Pretty fun.”
Meanwhile, he’s still waiting for the reality of playing in the NCAA tournament to sink in.
“When it does, it does,” he said. “Until then, I’m just riding it out.”comments powered by Disqus