Grayson Allen is returning for his senior season at Duke and you probably have some thoughts about that. Maybe you’re a Duke fan who is thrilled to have some experience on a team that was going to be comprised entirely of Freshmen, Sophomores, and Antonio Vrankovic. Or maybe you’re not a Duke fan and you’re enjoying the thought of how much money Allen cost himself by not leaving for the NBA after his Sophomore season. Or just maybe you’re a college basketball aggregator who is downright giddy about the page views you’ll get this season every time Allen even comes close to making any physical contact with another player, coach or referee. There are two sure things heading into the 2017-18 college basketball season. One, you’re thinking about Grayson Allen. Two, he’s not thinking about any of you.
There’s nothing keeping Allen in college basketball. Nothing. He won an ACC championship. He won a National Championship. He’s a perennial lock for the ACC honor roll. And it’s not even an absence of reasons to return, it’s the thousands of reasons he should HATE playing college basketball. His reputation. The booing. The very transparent agenda to keep Allen in the headlines. We expected all of this to factor into a very easy decision to go pro. Somewhere. Anywhere. None of us could handle what Allen goes through on a daily basis. And this dude is choosing to come back for another season of it. And that’s intriguing.
As a player, Grayson Allen is at his best when he flies around the basketball court without any regard for human life, including his own. He’s incredible to watch up close when he’s attacking the basket. As an observer, your instinct is to anticipate the next move a player is about to make, and Allen almost exclusively does the opposite of what’s expected. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s spectacular.
It won Duke a championship in 2015 when he came off the bench to spark a comeback with 16 points in 21 minutes against Wisconsin in the finals. It put him on All-America teams as a Sophomore when he averaged over 21 points per game. Hell, it even got him to Duke in the first place as Allen went from a mid-level recruit to a McDonald’s All-American in the span of a year.
Being a race car without brakes definitely has a downside, too. It’s hard to say Allen loses his cool because I’m not sure he has any cool. The same “passion” that helps him make impossible plays also makes him lash out referees or opponents. He’s not always the best teammate because “spectacular” can easily end up being “selfish”, and he’s not helping anyone when he’s suspended or on the bench in foul trouble. We’ve said it before … Grayson Allen is the real life Waterboy. What makes him great is the same thing that makes him dangerous and out of control. He tried to reel it in last year. He tried to be more of a facilitator. He entered the season talking about repairing his reputation, and when it went south against Elon, he spent the rest of the year trying to be something he isn’t. His stats fell, and so did his draft stock. More importantly to Duke, so did his contribution to team success.
We haven’t talked to Grayson Allen about his decision to return, and we assure you that no one else has either. Actions have always spoken louder than Allen’s words, which is what makes this latest action so fascinating. The “clean” decision would have been to say goodbye to college basketball. Opposing fans would forget about him. The media who has scrutinized him would have wished him well. He would have silently moved into professional basketball where he’d just become a collection of statistics and probabilities instead of a subject of psychoanalysis and a target of hot takes. But he didn’t do that. He faked us out again. Just like when the clear move is to pull up for a mid-range jump shot, he’s deciding to somehow cover 12 feet with a Eurostep between two defenders and execute an up and under at the rim when the weak side help rotates to block the shot.
The message is pretty clear. Allen will run to professional basketball at some point, whether it’s in Europe or the NBA. But he sure as hell isn’t going to run away from college basketball. Which means he’s DEFINITELY not running away from his reputation, the boos, the hot takes, and the negative attention. All of that stuff might have brought him back to Durham after his Sophomore season, but not now. He saw how that worked out. Clearly, Grayson Allen doesn’t have any F’s left to give. And that’s the best version of Grayson Allen.