NEW YORK —Even when he was drafted, Grayson Allen couldn't avoid being reminded of a controversial incident.
One of the most polarizing college players in recent memory, Allen will join a playoff-caliber Utah Jazz team led by rising star Donovan Mitchell—with whom Allen got in a tussle at Duke.
Now, Allen will look to turn the page on all the controversy as he begins the next chapter of his professional career after being selected with the No. 21 overall pick. The Jacksonville, Fla., native will also pair up with another former Blue Devil in head coach Quin Snyder, who graduated from Duke in 1989.
“I'm so excited. I'm so happy,” Allen said on his selection by the Jazz. “I was contemplating with my family whether to come here or not, and I'm very happy I made the decision to be here for this. I'm excited to be in Utah, excited to be with Donovan [Mitchell], who I had some battles with in college. I'm just looking forward to it.”
Allen and Mitchell battled on the court four times during Mitchell’s two seasons at Louisville. Duke and Louisville split those matchups two-apiece, but it was certainly not all fun and games between the future teammates.
During a January 2017 matchup at Louisville, Mitchell appeared to slap Allen in the face while the two got tangled up on court. Allen had recently reached the low point of his career with his third tripping incident, which resulted in an indefinite suspension—that lasted just one game—for the then-junior.
“Yeah, we had some great battles,” Allen said while chucking. “It's funny, the scouting report on him from freshman to sophomore year changed so much because he improved his game incredibly. He expanded everything. He's a competitor, so we matched up a lot. I wanted to guard him, he wanted to guard me.”
To bring it full circle, the controversy began 11 months earlier, when Allen tripped Louisville’s Ray Spalding after falling to the floor following a shooting foul. The Jacksonville, Fla., native received a flagrant one foul for the incident and his reputation as a villain among some fans began to build.
However, the incident between Mitchell and Allen was not noticeable at all on draft night. Allen coincidentally was one of the few players to have a teammate waiting to greet him at the bottom of the steps and it seemed as though any tension between the players has long passed.
Mitchell also tweeted following Allen's selection, expressing his eagerness to get to work with his new teammate.
“It's awesome to get his support, because I obviously haven't met many guys on the Utah Jazz,” Allen said. “When their leading scorer and really the guy who had the ball in his hands the most from last year comes and congratulates you and welcomes you right when you put the hat on, it feels good. I already feel welcomed in Utah. I'm really excited to get to work there.”
Allen wore his 2015 national championship ring Thursday night and seems ready to bring a winning attitude to a Utah Jazz team that won the NBA Northwest Division as recently as 2017. The sharpshooter cemented his legacy early on in his career, coming off the bench as the Blue Devils eighth man in the championship game to score eight consecutive points to spark a deciding run for Duke in a 68-63 victory.
Allen will likely serve a similar role for the Jazz next year, hoping to provide instant offense off the bench. After exploding towards the basket and drawing contact in the beginning of his career, Allen became much more of a catch-and-shoot player towards the end of his time at Duke. Through four years as a Blue Devil, Allen converted on 38 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc, and will certainly need to continue to shoot at a similar clip in order to carve out a role in a deep Jazz rotation.
Yet, Allen feels his time at Duke has helped him grow and develop that thick skin necessary to compete. Whether it be breaking into the rotation or battling through boos that will carry over from his reputation as a Blue Devil, Allen is ready to do whatever he needs to get better and contribute to his team.
“I think I got thick skin now,” Allen said. “I'm a lot tougher mentally. I don't care if it's boos or cheers in the stands or in opposing stands. I think it's gotten me a lot more focused on the game and the love of the game.”
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.
Digital Strategy Director for Vol. 115, Michael was previously Sports Editor for Vol. 114 and Assistant Blue Zone Editor for Vol. 113. Michael is a senior majoring in Statistical Science and is interested in data analytics and using data to make insights.