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Learning value of hard work helped turn Atlantic City’s Kevin Allen into a star on the basketball court

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By GIUSEPPE UNGARO Managing Editor Kevin Allen received a lesson many student-athletes learn entering high school. No matter how good you think you are, a spot on the roster or in the starting lineup is earned, not given. The lesson doesn’t always sink in right away, and Allen, a recent Atlantic City graduate, admitted it took a few years to become clear. Once it did, Allen became the type of player he and Vikings basketball coach Gene Allen (no relation) always thought he had the potential to be. With a versatile offensive game and the toughness to battle in the paint, Allen led the Vikings to a 21-6 record, as well as a deep run in both the Cape-Atlantic League tournament and the NJSIAA South Jersey Group 4 playoffs. “Kevin is really what my whole philosophy is all about. When he came in, I guess he thought he was going to be the next guy. With that, he didn’t work hard initially,” Gene Allen said. “For that, I (benched him). His freshman year he was on the varsity, and during our playoff run, he just wasn’t working hard enough. I needed to send a message to him because I knew eventually he would be that guy for us. “The first two years he didn’t follow my philosophy and the way I do things, but I saw big strides in him his junior year. This year, I really feel like he developed into a well-rounded — not just athlete — but a well-rounded student-athlete. That’s what our program is all about.” Kevin Allen, a senior this past winter, did the dirty work in the paint for Atlantic City and helped lead the Vikings to another outstanding season on the hardwood. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O'Sullivan) Kevin Allen, a senior this past winter, did the dirty work in the paint for Atlantic City and helped lead the Vikings to another outstanding season on the hardwood. (Glory Days Magazine photos/Dave O’Sullivan) Kevin Allen explained his thought process as a freshman: “I thought I was better than I really was. I started working hard after my sophomore year, going into my junior year. I was on the starting roster my sophomore year and there were people that thought I shouldn’t have been on it. I had to show them that I deserved to be there. I did all the workouts and beach workouts the JV coach had. I did the dribbling workouts and all different workouts during the summer.” Allen, who grew up in Ventnor but lives in Atlantic City, eventually became one of the main cogs for the Vikings, a perennial playoff contender in South Jersey basketball. He proved he belonged as a junior, but this past season, the recent graduate became one of the best players in the league. He is not flashy, but does all the little things that add up to a big impact on and off the court coaches want from their players, especially their standout players. The 6-foot-4 Allen had the talent to light up the scoreboard, but also the intelligence to just do what his team needed in specific situations or games. He didn’t need to score to make an impact, playing tough defense and being strong on the glass in many games in which he wasn’t the team’s leading scorer. However, he definitely could score, whether it was in the paint or from beyond the 3-point arc. Allen also seemed to be at his best against top competition. He scored a season-high 24 points in a game against Middle Township; 19 against the rival Spartans in the CAL semifinals; and 21 in a sectional quarterfinals win over Southern. “He did a little bit of everything. He rebounded, he scored inside, and I always knew he had an outside game that a lot of guys didn’t know. So we structured the offense where we can take advantage of some mismatches against bigger guys on him from the outside, and then he started showing his ability to shoot the three,” Gene Allen said. “He had a real well-rounded game this year, and then he was a leader on and off the court as far as keeping the kids in check, keeping them in line, doing exactly what I want from him. He was a tremendous all-around asset.” Allen also showed his toughness, as he helped lead the Vikings down the stretch while being sick. On two occasions, Allen literally got sick on the sidelines during timeouts, only to return to be dominant in games. That is the sign of the leader he became, and a long way from where he started as an underclassmen. “It actually kills me because this was my last year. I wish I could get that time back,” Kevin said. “But we did the best we could.” “In his sophomore year, he would have never done something like that. He was actually sick the whole playoff run from (the CAL semifinals game) through the Cherry Hill East game. He threw up on the sideline,” Gene said. “He definitely showed the toughness I knew he had in him, it just took a while to bring it out. That bodes well for him at the next level.” The next level for Kevin is at nearby Richard Stockton University. He decided to play for the Ospreys in order to stay close to home, and to open up opportunities after he graduates. Allen said he wants to play basketball as long as he can, but eventually maybe become a teacher. “Out of all the schools I visited and experienced, I believed it has the strongest alumni base and a great opportunity to get my life going after basketball,” he said. Contact Giuseppe Ungaro: gungaro@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDgisepu [adsense]

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