Another season of college basketball is upon us and the excitement in myself cannot be contained! Last year was a great year for college basketball. We saw Kentucky finish the regular season undefeated and carried that zero in the loss column until the Final Four where they lost to Wisconsin. Duke showed the country yet again that Indianapolis is very good to them; they beat Wisconsin in the Championship to claim their second in five years. Wichita State even made a tiny run into the Sweet 16 and going 30-5.
This year seems to be the same story as almost every year starts out- Kentucky will win the SEC and have a great tournament, North Carolina will either struggle at the beginning of conference play and finish strong or vice versa, and Kansas will fly under the radar and become a championship favorite. There is also one more thing that seems to be true year in and year out – Duke has a player that seems to be not well liked by anyone outside Duke’s fan base. Last season, it was Jahlil Okafor; the season before that, Jabari Parker. This pattern continues all the way back to the Christian Laettner days when he played at Duke from 1988 till 1992.
The question for me, being an avid Duke fan, who would be that player this year that everyone seems to hate? We got our answer and we got it quickly – its Grayson Allen. Everyone who watched the tournament, especially the National Championship last year saw Grayson grow up before their eyes. During the regular season he only averaged 4.4 points per game and shot 42.5 percent from the field, however, that changed when tournament time came up. He was a whole different player, especially in the last two games where it seemed like he put the team on his back and carried them to the championship victory. If there was a big possession in the game, or a crucial moment, Grayson shined. In the championship game, Allen scored 16 points and was praised by everyone on that team. Coach K was quoted saying, “We got nine points down, we’re in foul trouble and a little bit disjointed, and Grayson put us on his back”.
This year, no one knew how Grayson would fair. With Luke Kennard coming in from Ohio and one of the nation’s best high school players, it was up in the air who would start. The first game began and Grayson was starting and he has excelled this season. He’s averaging 21.4 points and shooting at 50.4 percent each game. His only hiccup this year (like the entire Duke roster) came at their lone loss against Kentucky when they played in Chicago.
His role this year has changed from last year now that he is a starter and not coming off the bench for less than 10 minutes. Grayson is a pivotal part of the team and they look to him to be an “x-factor” game in and game out. Watching him play is something that I personally enjoy. It seems to me like each game he plays, he has the mentality that it could be his last. The passion he brings is something that all players can look to. He can score from almost anywhere on the court. He’s shooting 45 percent from behind the three-point line and is amazing at the free-throw line, going 88.6 percent.
Grayson has started the year off the way anyone could dream of when playing for a big program such as Duke. He could very well be in contention and a front-runner when it comes to the Naismith Award. If he continues this amazing play, I see no doubt as to why he could become one of Duke’s top-5 players of all-time.