Published: Monday, February 5, 2007
Allen reminds Foster of NBA's Charles Barkley
She's undersized, but can run the court and rebound with the taller players.
COLUMBUS (AP) Jim Foster was the women's coach at Saint Joseph's when the hometown Philadelphia 76ers brought a kid into his gym for a tryout who was 6-foot-4 1/2 and 288 pounds.
Now Foster is paying the ultimate compliment to Star Allen, one of the fifth-ranked Buckeyes' top players, when he compares her to that pudgy star-to-be.
"Star Allen reminds me an awful lot of Charles Barkley," Foster said last week.
He doesn't mean in terms of body type or in the ability to make headlines with his mouth.
Foster looks at Allen and sees the young Barkley, an undersized force on a court who could rebound with far taller players, could run the court and handle the ball and who was far more athletic than one would gather by looking at him weigh in.
"Some of the stuff he did was mind-boggling," Foster said.
Bright future ahead
The future is bright for Allen, a strong, 5-11 sophomore who has grown into her role at power forward for the Buckeyes.
Allen seldom saw the court a year ago as a freshman, but learned from watching the intuitive play between two-time All-American center Jessica Davenport and forward Debbie Merrill. Whenever the 6-5 Davenport would be double-teamed, Merrill had a knack for getting open, getting a rebound or getting an assist.
Opponents got burned when they didn't pay enough attention to Davenport's running mate in the frontcourt.
It took a while for Allen to get comfortable replacing the graduated Merrill. She showed just how far she has come on Monday night when she had career highs of 21 points and 13 rebounds in leading the Buckeyes to their 25th consecutive Big Ten win, a 64-55 victory at No. 10 Purdue.
The Boilermakers surrounded Davenport every time she touched the ball on offense, all but neglecting Allen. And they paid a price.
"It does make my job a lot easier [when they double-team Jessica] because that way I can find an open shot or I can drive and find other people," said the soft-spoken Allen, who is 36-for-48 from the field (75 percent) in her last five games while averaging 7.6 rebounds.
Helps out Davenport
Allen's emergence has made things easier on Davenport, a two-time Big Ten player of the year.
"She's been a big relief," Davenport said. "She's just confident in her shot and what she can do to help this team. She's matured a lot since last year and that's helped out a lot. She's able to be that type of player who is going to get the big rebound or hit the open shot."
Davenport remains the Buckeyes' first option on offense. But if a defense slides an extra defender over on her, she can dump a pass to Allen or kick the ball back out to teammate Marscilla Packer, one of the Big Ten's top 3-point threats.
Packer said it was only a matter of time until Allen did her share to keep defenses honest.
"I don't know if she knew it as much as we did, but we knew how she can play," Packer said. "We knew she could rebound like crazy and score.
"The thing is, now we're going to expect it out of her every night, so she should get used to that."
Allen swears that her parents weren't trying to make any predictions when they labeled her Star.
Some kids gave her a hard time by chanting, "Twinkle, twinkle, little Star." Although the name has been hard to live up to, she's gotten past it.
Now she's looking forward to someday taking Foster up on an offer he made.
"Coach Foster told me last year that if I picked up my game, then I'd meet Charles Barkley," she said.
The ball is in your court, coach.