- As Arizona's depth wanes, senior glue guy Kadeem Allen has helped marshal the Wildcats through a tough stretch.
The No. 20 ranked Arizona Wildcats are having a season filled with plot twists, and a season that had high expectations from the get-go has left Arizona fans holding their breath. Arguably the most consistent piece to Arizona’s puzzle has been senior guard Kadeem Allen with his excessive energy as well as the ability to defend the opposing team’s best player.
“Kadeem is one of the great leaders that I’ve coached,” Arizona head coach Sean Miller said. “You may not see that, because he’s not an outgoing, verbal type of guy … He’s our only senior and he’s playing with his heart.”
Allen’s humility stems from his journey through the junior college circuit. He won the National JUCO Player of the Year in 2014 at Hutchinson Community College and was a notable addition to Miller’s recruiting class. As a transfer and having to sit out for a season, it’s like taking the hamster off the wheel. But Miller was in need of a veteran at the point guard position in 2015 since junior Parker Jackson-Cartwright was still maturing.
A guard like Allen gets lost in the shuffle sometimes, because of how he ended last season in his first season starting at point guard. In Arizona’s final game of the season in its first round loss to Wichita State, Allen committed seven turnovers. On the season he led the team in steals and flashed potential playing shooting guard instead.
With star sophomore Allonzo Trier’s status still unknown, Miller asked for his role to be the heart and soul of the team.
“Sitting out that first year, I lost a lot of confidence and last year just trying to get it ball back,” Allen said. “With this being my last year, coach really gave me a different role on the team and with me being the only senior on the team, I have to lead by example and lead the younger guys so I just try to go out there and play hard.”
Allen has arguably been the Wildcats’ most consistent player outside of freshman Lauri Markkanen, with 1.4 steals a game and an increased role because of the injuries hamstringing their depth. That lack of depth, however, has fatigued Allen too much for Miller’s liking.
“He’s turning the ball over more and some of it I think is fatigue,” Miller said. “He guards the other team’s best player. He uses a ton of energy there. We want him to make plays—he’s running the team and some of his decision making is more of a factor of fatigue.”
Against Gonzaga and UC Irvine, Allen has eight turnovers and Miller knows that those turnover numbers have the capability of shrinking.
“He cares a lot and sometimes if he misses a shot or makes a bad play, he gets down on himself in a very unselfish way—that’s his nature,” Miller said. “The other part of his nature is he is a relentless competitor.”
Allen’s room for error is slim so when it’s all said and done even with a team filled with five-star and NBA lottery talent, he will be relied on if he wants to take Miller places he’s never been before.
“To his credit now, there’s nobody who’s going harder, working harder or doing more for his team than Kadeem is for us right now,” Miller said.