Grayson Allen is “almost over-competitive.”
“My parents were worried about me being too competitive as a kid,” said Allen, Duke’s first commit in the class of 2014.
Even getting an offer from the Blue Devil coaching staff was a competition of sorts—battling against expectations.
As a freshman, he told his head coach Jim Martin at the Providence School in Jacksonville, Fla. that Duke was his dream school. Back then, though, Allen was still relatively unknown and only receiving offers from nearby mid-majors such as South Florida and Georgia Southern.
“He was not at that time a Duke player,” Martin said.
A 6-foot-4, 185-pound guard, Allen has always had the athleticism to excel in a backcourt. The aspect of his game that needed work: shooting.
And Allen worked on his game and slowly began to receive attention from larger programs.
After Allen’s sophomore season, with Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski along with assistants Chris Collins and Steve Wojciechowski at the Olympics, Martin cold called then-special assistant Nate James. Martin told James that he had to take a look at him, which he agreed to do at that summer’s Boo Williams event.
“That guy’s good,” James told Martin. “He can play.”
Allen has continued that improvement throughout his junior season, developing into a dangerous combo guard who sits at No. 36 in ESPN’s class of 2014 rankings.
Although a number of top schools had made offers to Allen in his junior year, and Krzyzewski had yet to, “Duke was always the school to beat,” Martin said.
“Growing up Duke became my favorite team to watch,” Allen said. “I don’t know what in particular made me gravitate towards them as a kid. I think it’s just the winning nature of it. I’m so competitive.”
There was never a guarantee Allen would get an offer. The Blue Devils rarely recruit out of Florida—Austin Rivers was the first Blue Devil to come from the Sunshine State since 1999.
Allen never paid attention to that, though. When local news anchors told Allen he was Krzyzewski’s first commit out of Jacksonville, he thought it was “pretty crazy.”
So when Krzyzewski, Wojciechowski and assistant Jeff Capel came for their in-home visit in mid-April, he was prepared for their offer.
In a recruiting scene filled with drawn-out decisions and speculation-propelled rumors mills, it took Allen nine days to accept and become the first member of Duke’s 2014 recruiting class.
“Having that [meeting] solidified that Coach K is a great guy, normal guy, funny guy and he’s cool to talk with. Having all that sums it up for me,” Allen said. “In that meeting, the big thing was me being comfortable with the coaches.”
Allen competed at the Nike EYBL session in Dallas last weekend-—his first time on the AAU circuit since he committed to Duke—-and showed why he is such an up-and-comer. The shooting guard showed off his efficiency from all over the floor against some of the top high school talent in the nation.
Despite coming off the bench, Allen averaged 18.3 points per game while leading his team Each 1 Teach 1 to a 4-0 record. That included a 28-point victory against Howard Pulley, led by Tyus Jones—a Duke target and the No. 1 guard in the class of 2014. During the course of the weekend, Allen made 68 percent of his shots and 73 percent of his 3-pointers. Maybe such savvy shooting is why Allen said he feels most comfortable playing off the ball, even though he can play both guard positions.
The improvement in Allen’s shot has made him a once-in-a-score player in Martin’s eyes.
“In my 20 years of coaching, I’ve seen great athletes who are really good basketball players, but their shot is just okay. And I’ve seen the guys who can fill it up but aren’t great athletes,” Martin said. “Grayson is the first guy I’ve seen in 20 years now that can absolutely do both.”
Allen’s competitive character also demonstrates itself off the court, where he had his most recent contest. After finishing up in Dallas, he returned home for a more democratic showdown—student government elections.
With a 4.4 GPA, Allen places a strong emphasis on academics. He noted that every school that extended him a scholarship offer has an elite basketball program, but the Duke education stood out.
Like he worked and earned his offer from the Blue Devil staff, Allen won in his race for vice president.
“He wants to be the best, wants to take on the best,” Martin said. “He has a purpose behind everything he does.”