Allen name, stardom game Two paths to top: Allen Iverson was as touted entering Georgetown as Connecticut's Ray Allen was overlooked by most major schools.

February 19, 1996|By Paul McMullen | Paul McMullen,SUN STAFF

They share a name and a habit of appearing regularly on the nightly highlights, but the college basketball careers of the Allen "brothers" couldn't have begun more differently.

Ray Allen is the main piece in Connecticut's climb to a No. 3 ranking, but the junior swingman wasn't even regarded as the Huskies' best freshman two years ago. Coming out of Dalzell, S.C., in 1993, he was the second-most overlooked prospect in the nation -- after Joe Smith -- and didn't start as a freshman.

Conversely, has there ever been a more scrutinized recruit than Allen Iverson, Georgetown's sophomore point guard?

Jailed for four months in 1993, Iverson did not play sports as a high school senior in Hampton, Va. After considerable debate over his future, Iverson arrived at Georgetown, and promptly took the Hoyas to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1989.

Allen and Iverson will hook up tonight (7:30, ESPN) at USAir Arena. The Huskies (24-1, 14-0) arrive with a 23-game win streak and designs on being the first men's team to go unbeaten in the Big East. With apologies to Villanova's Kerry Kittles, who won the award last year, the game also will have a say in the conference's Player of the Year balloting.

Iverson leads the conference in scoring (24.0 points per game) and has broken his own school record for steals with 97. Allen is averaging 23.2 points and 6.8 rebounds. Iverson's explosive talent has always astounded observers, but Allen admits that when he was an underclassman in high school, his goals weren't so lofty.

"I never thought I'd make it to a major conference," Allen said. "I thought I'd end up at an NAIA school, because that's what the guys from my high school looked at. There were a lot of negative people around me, wondering could I really do it?

"A lot of people came around late on me. Wake Forest, Kentucky, they saw my true talent. Coach [Jim] Calhoun saw my talent. He knew I could play. Still, when I came in, I understood that there was a lot to learn."

Two years ago, when Allen averaged 12.6 points as a reserve, UConn point guard Doron Sheffer was the Big East's Rookie of the Year and Donyell Marshall its Player of the Year. When Marshall left school early for the NBA, Allen emerged last season as a big-time scorer.

Allen, 6 feet 5, came to Connecticut with the reputation of a slasher, but the hours he's invested in his perimeter skills are evident in his 48.8 percent shooting on three-point attempts this season.

Allen and the Huskies were picked to finish behind defending champion Villanova and Georgetown this season, but the Hoyas (21-5, 10-4) have lost three of their past four Big East games.

At the point, Iverson is still a work in progress. Coach John Thompson acknowledged his potential a year ago when the Hoyas switched from a plodding style to a breakneck pace. Iverson is in position to break Reggie Williams' school record for points in a season, but there are still possessions when he is admittedly out of control.

In the first three minutes against Memphis on Saturday, Iverson made his first five shots. On the Hoyas' next possession, Iverson, sometimes too fast for his own good, dribbled out of bounds. With two minutes to go in the half, he shot an air ball and pouted. Said Thompson: "You're acting like a baby."

"I got hit on the arm, and I let that frustrate me," Iverson said. "I should have kept on playing basketball. That's part of the game. I'm only 6 foot, 170 pounds, so that's going to happen. I should expect it."

Iverson has grown plenty in the past three years.

When he was a high school junior, Iverson was convicted of three felony charges for his part in a bowling alley brawl in Hampton, Va.

Sentenced to five years in prison, he spent four months in 1993 at a jail farm, before then Gov. L. Douglas Wilder granted clemency. He returned to Bethel High, but was not allowed to play sports.

Last June, Iverson's conviction was overturned by the Virginia Court of Appeals. He is grateful for that, and the opportunity Thompson gave him.

"I'm having fun, but not any more than I had last year," Iverson said. "Not being able to play as a high school senior, and then going straight into college was great for me."

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