Richmond’s unassuming basketball leader is most distressed when he is confined to the four walls of a camera lens. Not when he has to make a buzzer-beating shot to win the game, not when he is defending the best player on the rival’s team – that is when he is most collected. But put five cameras within a foot of his face and he will shy away. His eyes will wander in the search for something else to focus on, and his words will struggle to find their way out of his mouth.
Before this year, Terry Allen never really had to face his kryptonite. He has always been a consistent contributor for the Spiders, scoring points and making big defensive plays in pivotal moments, but he has also managed to stay out of the media spotlight. Kendall Anthony generated most of the hype surrounding the basketball program in previous seasons, which allowed Allen to play his game and be inconspicuous afterwards. That is his preferred method.
“He defers,” Will Bryan, Richmond basketball’s public relations director, said. “He’d rather be the guy working hard in the weight room, going out quietly with no one watching him and working on his game. He’s not the guy that’s busting out of the locker room and going crazy.Terry is going to keep his head down and work his tail off. That’s more the way he operates.”
While Allen’s accomplishments on the court have come more naturally, being receptive to the press has long been something he has had to work to improve. Bryan said that Allen’s small stutter is something that he is self-aware of, and can be challenging when the cameras turn on. Before this season, Bryan spoke with him about the importance of representing himself and the team.
“I wouldn’t make him take every opportunity there was, like if something made him uncomfortable,” Bryan said. “But the whole experience is important for him to grow. If you move past Richmond and into professional life, that would be an important aspect. Being able to talk in front of people and expressing yourself is important in the world.”
Bryan said that Allen took their talk to heart, and has made an effort to be a vocal leader as well as the natural leader-by-example that he is.
This year, senior year, Allen has found himself fulfilling that new role on the team. Being the most productive player comes with added responsibility, both on the court and in the press-room after the game. Aside from being the focal point of the public eye and the other teams’ scouting, there is pressure to perform at an elite level consistently, which, he has excelled at despite being camera shy. Allen is notorious for causing matchup nightmares on the court for every team that plays against the Spiders. How do you effectively defend a player that stands at 6-feet-7-inches tall at the post, but is as mobile and handles the ball as well as a guard could?
It is more than halfway through his last season, and opponents still have not been able to find a solution. Allen averages 18.2 points per game, and also leads the team in steals, blocks and rebounds. Aside from that, he posted his single-game career high 34 points in a win against No. 14 California in November.
Richmond coach Chris Mooney admitted that Allen’s position was not the easiest to be in, but said that he never hid from it. He embraces the idea of being a great basketball player.
Allen’s teammate, T.J. Cline, said that Allen had managed the media relations much better as he had gotten older, and especially this season. Allen now understands that it all comes with the territory of being a good basketball player, even if he would rather fly under the radar, Cline said.
Allen’s drive, quiet determination and desire to keep to himself were the traits that stood out to Mooney when they first met during Allen’s junior year at Manvel High School, in Manvel, Texas, and have since helped him succeed throughout his time at Richmond.
It wasn’t always this easy for him, though.
“It is just a really different place than where he grew up, but he has handled it so well,” Mooney said. “Maybe he wasn’t as prepared as some of the other students for the academic or athletic demand, but he’s had confidence and believed in himself. He’s really put himself in a position to be successful, and he’s graduating in May with a great collegiate basketball career behind him.”
Allen’s teammates have also noticed the amount of time and effort that he puts into basketball.
“He is one of the hardest workers I know,” Cline said, as he explained that Allen was in the gym alone at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night after a tough road loss to St. Bonaventure because he was not pleased with his performance that day.
“He definitely has natural physical ability, but I think to say that he’s naturally gifted would be rude to say about him because he spends so much time trying to improve,” Cline said.
Allen’s mother has also had significant influence on his ambition to become a great basketball player, as she was one herself – an All-American at San Diego State University. Allen told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that she showed him everything, including how to dribble, how to use his left hand and how to shoot.
Allen declined multiple interview requests for this piece, but has said in other interviews that his mother calls him the day before each game and asks questions about how prepared he is and how he has been performing lately. He knows to expect another call after the game when they discuss his performance and what can be done better.
“But she’s always cheering me on,” Allen said to Alley Whoops, a writer for Medium. “She’s a big fan.”
Cline’s mother, Nancy Lieberman, was a professional basketball player as well, and spoke to what it was like to have been raised in a similar environment. Having mothers that were accomplished basketball players taught them that talent and genetics were not enough. It is all about how many hours they spend in the gym.
Allen began spending those hours in the gym long before his time at Richmond. He finished as his high school’s all-time leader in points with 1,988, rebounds with 1,050 and steals with 215. He played every position, and his versatility is what ultimately helped him arrive with Mooney and the Spiders.
On a personal level, Cline described Allen as a particular person. He is particular about whom he is comfortable with and particular with whom he trusts. However, once that comfort is reached and the constricting walls of the camera lens are removed, he is entirely different.
And maybe that’s okay. Bryan said that Anthony had been similar, saving his talking for when he really needed it. When Anthony spoke, everyone listened. He said he thought that Allen was still trying to find that authoritative voice – and that it was hard for everyone, whether it was basketball or any other aspect of being in your early 20s.
Cline went on to describe the friendship that they built off the court when they decided to live together this year. They play video games and watch Gotham together on Netflix. He said that Allen’s unique personality was one of the things that made him so likable both on and off the court.
“He’s already an incredible athlete, and an incredible basketball player,” Bryan said. “And again, there are times where I’ve asked him to do something and he’d rather not. And that’s just kinda the way he is, he’d rather talk about other people and his teammates.”
Allen has opted out of media opportunities before, as he did with this article, but he is always receptive to his fans, especially with one-on-one encounters. In fact, he recently met one of his biggest fans, Scott Dankenbring.
Dankenbring has been an avid Spider basketball fan since his daughter, junior Jess Dankenbring’s freshman year at Richmond. The first time he saw the Spiders play was in a game against the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, which is near their hometown of Aurora, Colorado.
Games in Colorado are not usually on the schedule, though, and they are also not typically aired on the local channels there. To follow the team, Dankenbring uses a kindle with an ESPN app that he refreshes every couple of minutes to get updated scores.
So, what better Christmas present could there be than traveling more than 800 miles to watch the Spiders play Massachusetts and then getting to meet your favorite basketball player?
For Scott, nothing sounded better. That is why Jess was willing to buy her dad a plane ticket to do just that, even if it meant picking a basketball game over Ring Dance.
Jess had also made her dad a custom t-shirt with the Spiders basketball logo on the front and their last name, “Dankenbring,” as well as Terry’s number, 15, on the back for the holidays the year before. Terry signed it before she gave it to him.
“He was very responsive when I sent him e-mails about meeting my dad, and he’s also been like that when I’ve talked to him the past,” Jess said.
She set up a surprise meeting for Allen and her dad in Jepson, and then they watched a practice in the Robins Center.
“I think the thing that got me was the way he acted,” Scott said. “He didn’t have sort of ego, and he answered every question I asked him. He was good about it. We even got our picture taken together. He just seems like he’s a regular guy.”
Allen told Scott that he dreamed of the NBA. It is a dream that Mooney, as well as the rest of the players on the team, are fully supportive of. Allen has already had scouts for the Golden State Warriors and Chicago Bulls come watch him play.
Allen will have many options that range from the NBA development leagues to the NBA itself. Playing overseas may even be an option, which is what Anthony is doing now.
Bryan said that for the most part, things wouldn’t start settling into place until the end of the season, but when they did, Terry Allen would be ready.
Contact sports assistant Jennie Trejo at email@example.com