By Larry Vaught


He was already a celebrity of sorts in Pendleton County before he received a scholarship offer from Kentucky and quickly decided he wanted to play for coach John Calipari. Now senior Dontaie Allen is really a celebrity.

“Pretty much everywhere I go people recognize me and will ask about the situation (with Kentucky) and how things are going with it. I really enjoy it. It gives me something to talk about because almost everybody around here loves Kentucky and is thrilled I am going to Kentucky,” said Allen. 

It’s almost like a fairy tale story how he’s gone from a “not very good” basketball player as a kid to a future player at his dream school — and the school that had more players on opening day NBA rosters than any other school in the country.

“Growing up I really wasn’t that good. About my seventh-grade year I really started working hard but even then, I really wasn’t as good as I wanted to be,” Allen said. “I broke my wrist eighth grade year and I just stayed in the game even with a cast on my right wrist. I was shooting left-handed and on the treadmill running and trying to stay in shape. I think that is when I found out I really loved basketball. Ever since then I have been trying to do more than even what I was doing, and it has worked out okay so far.”

He averaged 31.8 points and 11.4 rebounds per game last season when he shot 59.1 percent from the field, including 40 percent from 3-point range. He went into his senior season with 2,697 points, including two 50-point games, and 1,044 rebounds. He’s had 56 double-doubles in 105 high school games. 

Still, his recruitment did not blow up until last summer when he was playing AAU for M.A.T.T.S. Mustangs and had over 20 scholarship offers before the one from Kentucky came. 

“I am just really glad it happened. I feel like I have always done those things I was doing this summer. It was just the platform that I did it in. I did it against some of the nation’s top talent,” Allen said. 

He stayed so focused that the first time Calipari came to see him play during an event in Georgia, he didn’t even know the coach was there until the game ended. He scored 30 points that game. 

Calipari’s first phone call to Allen didn’t exactly go well, either. Allen didn’t answer. 

“I thought it was maybe a random coach and I was trying to get ready for this tournament. Then I looked back and it was Coach Cal and I was like, ‘Oh shoot,’ and I screamed. Then I called him back and we just talked.”

Allen made an unofficial visit to UK a few weeks later. He had no scholarship offer at the time, but he got one during his visit. His high school coach, Keaton Belcher, thought the offer might be coming but anticipated Allen not rushing to make a decision. Allen had even told his parents, April and Tony, before the visit he didn’t know what he would do if he got a scholarship offer. 

“I have always been a Kentucky fan and I have always known I wanted to go there. I just wanted to see what it was like and go from there. But I pretty much knew I was going to take the offer as soon as I got it,” the Pendleton County senior said. “My parents were even wondering what happened when I said yes so quick. They were not expecting it. Kentucky didn’t pressure me. They just left it on the table and we just kept talking. I felt like that was where I wanted to be, and I could develop as a player and person there. So, I just committed.”

Belcher says, Allen is a special talent on the basketball court but also a rare person off the court.

“Dontaie is phenomenal,” his coach said. “He’s great with our youth players and is respected by his peers and teachers at the high school. He is always giving credit to teammates. He will never take credit on his own. He rarely says I or me.”

“You won’t see him making any offensive tweets. His parents did a great job raising him, but he knows because he’s been such a good athlete his entire life and now is going to be an even bigger superstar that he has to be careful how he handles the spotlight. But he really is one of the best kids you could ever be around.”