LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Dontaie Allen can’t wait to get back on the court.
“I’m just ready to get out there,” Allen said Friday. “I even talked about last year, I’m so excited honestly. It’s kind of built up. I’m just working really hard in practice.”
Allen, a redshirt freshman, spent his first year with the Wildcats nursing an injured knee and collarbone, but still managed to practice with the team. Allen used his first year to heal and learn the system.
“At first I was just starting out a little slow just because I had the knee injury,” he said. “I wasn’t as fast or as in shape as I am now just because I’ve been working at it and getting back into the right shape, even better I believe. It’s done a lot of great things.”
The experience provided a boost for Allen, who improved his shooting skills during the rehabilitation last season. He came close to making an appearance last year in games against Tennessee and Florida down the stretch when the team’s roster became thin.
“I learned that I am very resilient,” he said. “I’ve never gone through really anything like I’ve gone through the last three years. I think, honestly, it’s made me a stronger person. That can only carry on to the court. I think just that is going to bring a lot of good things to come on and off the court. It’s kind of a blessing in disguise.”
He also leaned on his faith during those trying times.
“I put my faith more in basketball before the injury," he said. “After the injury, I focused on and realized that faith (in God) goes for all things and all of those things tie in together. You’ve got to go deep inside yourself to push yourself through certain things. The last few years, that was the thing for me I had to do (to get through it).”
The 2019 Kentucky Mr. Basketball and former standout at Pendleton County hasn’t played a game in more than two years and doesn’t feel any pressure despite his status as a highly regarded in-state player.
“My biggest goal is to go out there and work as hard as I can,” he said. “I don’t feel like there’s any added pressure. You can say there’s added pressure because you’re from Kentucky, but this is just where I want to be. This is the culture that I wanted to be in. I’m ready to work my hardest, work my tail off just to get things done here.”
Allen added being part of the team’s practice sessions last year helped him to prepare mentally for the upcoming season.
“Every practice is like a game,” he said. “You’re going against 5-star (players). You’re going against everybody. Like, everybody is hooping. Everybody is working hard.
“A lot of games might be like that, but a lot of games aren’t going to be like that. These are all like high-level players and you’ve got to work hard every day in practice. I’m on my own, and because of that, I’m going to be in prime shape for the games.”
Allen said he’s a better player than he was two years ago and added he plays more with a sense of urgency every day.
“It’s almost like your life’s on the line,” he said. “That’s kind of the mentality that I’ve got. Like, my life is on the line every day and if I don’t give that kind of effort into it, I’m not going to make it. If the team doesn’t do these types of things, we won’t be successful as a team. Just getting my mind in that kind of mental space has gotten me stronger. I’m just more consistent in that way.”
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @keithtaylor21