Jarrett Allen personifies the rare breed of a humble hero.
The freshman forward rarely displays much emotion, even after rim-destroying dunks. He simply puts his head down and gets back on defense.
After a good game Allen will shrug off reporters’ questions regarding his play, caring more about his team’s success than his individual stat line.
Yes, Allen has lived up to his billing as Texas’ prized recruit in its 2016 class, but you’ll never hear Allen comment on his success.
“I’m just not very good at crediting myself for stuff,” Allen said.
The forward has plenty of “stuff” to credit himself for. Allen leads all Big 12 freshmen in rebounding and ranks second in the league in freshman scoring.
In the month of January, Allen has been on an absolute tear. He’s averaging over 15 points and 10 rebounds a game and has recorded three straight double-doubles. For his efforts, Allen has earned back-to-back Phillips 66 Big 12 Newcomer of the Week awards.
But Allen’s success at the collegiate level didn’t manifest overnight. Early in the year, he was timid with his shot selection, attempting less than seven shots per game while averaging less than 10 points per contest.
Allen has since embraced his role as a key cog in the Texas offense. The forward has scored in double-figures in 10 out of his last 11 games, and he scored a career-high 22 points a week ago against No. 2 Kansas.
While Allen shies away from addressing his rapid development, head coach Shaka Smart doesn’t hold back on his praises for the freshman and how he’s progressed this season.
“He has gotten better and better,” Smart said. “He’s applied himself in terms of work ethic. He’s got a huge upside where he can continue getting better and better. I’m just really pleased with his growth, if you look at it from the start of the season until now, how much better he’s gotten.”
But Smart may be more impressed with Allen’s humility. In Texas’ win over Oklahoma on Monday night, the coach highlighted a moment that exemplified his big man.
“I can count on one hand the number of times a player has apologized to me for a basketball play ever since I’ve been in coaching,” Smart said. “Jarrett comes up to me during the game, and says sorry I missed that shot coach. He’s just a unique guy.”
Allen was heavily recruited by Smart during his senior year of high school and played under the coach during last summer’s FIBA Americas Championship with Team USA’s under 18-team. Through all their time spent together, the two have forged a close relationship.
Smart says that he has enjoyed building a bond with Allen and thinks this close relationship has helped breed the forward’s success.
“I get a real kick out of being around the guy,” Smart said. “On the road they’ll be three or four of us just sitting around the table having philosophical conversations. We’ve tried to approach his growth in a holistic manner. If he’s having fun and is comfortable, that’s when he’s going to be most successful.”
This weekend Allen and Smart will look to put together consecutive wins for the first time since mid-November when Texas takes on Georgia.