LEXINGTON, Ky. — Dontaie Allen is inching closer to make a full return to the playing floor and isn’t rushing the process.
“I’m just taking it day by day right now,” Allen said.
Even getting a chance to participate in drills has been a long time coming for the former Pendleton County standout and reigning Kentucky Mr. Basketball. Allen will receive the trophy during Kentucky’s contest against Georgia Tech Saturday and is excited to finally get his hands on one of the state’s most coveted awards.
“I (have) worked for it my whole life,” he said. “To be able to finally receive it on the Rupp floor (Saturday) at the game is going to be a blessing. … Looking back on it, I do wish I could have had more games to showcase my talent and get my team to Rupp at the end of the season, but I’m just looking forward to the next chapter.”
Allen tore his ACL 13 games into his senior season at Pendleton County and spent most of last year rehabilitating his injured knee. He averaged 42.9 points per game during the first 11 games last year. Despite a shortened senior campaign, Allen finished his prep career with 3.225 points, ranking him No. 11 in state history.
He described himself as an all-around player.
“A lot of people like to say I am just a shooter, but there is a lot more to my game,” he said. “I play both sides (of the ball) and I get my team involved. I work hard.”
Allen has been taking part in some team drills but a full return to the court is a process that depends on his knee. When he’s on the floor, Allen said a familiar feeling returns and admits he’s still “a little rusty” and added just watching and waiting has been the toughest part of the recovery process.
“If it’s sore or if it swells up a little bit, which is part of the process, then it’s really dependent on that,” he said. “(When I first returned) I was just running around, jumping around. It was really fun and my love for the game hasn’t left. I’m just really excited for the next steps.”
Kentucky coach John Calipari said the former in-state standout is a “ways away” and “when he practices it’s probably about 75 percent. But, I’m glad he’s on the floor some.”
Although he hasn’t been able to participate in team drills at full speed, Allen has noticed a difference at the collegiate level and added that his “love for the game hasn’t wavered.”
“It’s so much different from high school — level of play, defense, strategies, things like that,” he said. “So it’s always good to learn.”
Allen isn’t sure when he will make a full return but is focused on “getting stronger and learning everything in practice.”
“I think coming back you’re going to feel a little bit slower, but that’s just something I gotta work on and I’m going to be fine,” he said.
In addition to getting back into playing shape, Calipari wants Allen to pay more attention in practice.
“There were times yesterday, we were running something and he didn’t know it,” Calipari said. “‘Well stop, you’re on the side what are you doing? You’re not doing anything else, what are you looking at the lights? Come on.’ I mean you should know all this stuff because you’re sitting there watching it. But he’s a great kid.”
While recovering, Allen has depended on his faith to carry him through the transition and credits his belief in God as one of the main reasons he has remained positive, especially during the recovering process.
“My faith has played a big role, knowing that God is in the forefront of my life,” he said. “Everything is going to be all right and I’m just going to have to keep pushing.”
Gametracker: Georgia Tech at Kentucky, 5 p.m., Saturday. TV/Radio: ESPN, UK Radio Network.