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Cory Allen Jr. brings dynamic play to USF Bulls

USF's leader in minutes (34.5), Corey Allen Jr. ranks second on the team in scoring (13.4 ppg) and assists (3.1), and fourth in rebounds (5.4).

OCTAVIO JONES | Times

USF's leader in minutes (34.5), Corey Allen Jr. ranks second on the team in scoring (13.4 ppg) and assists (3.1), and fourth in rebounds (5.4).

TAMPA

On tape, Stan Heath saw a dynamo, a ball-handling blur who levitated to the basket as if drawn by magnetic force. Corey Allen dashed, darted, defended, even rebounded.

Yet for all the sleekness playing out before his eyes, the USF coach kept going back to one profound spin move — of the roulette wheel. Allen, this skinny force of nature from a California junior college, would be a calculated gamble.

"That (juco) experience they get is obviously a nice advantage, but sometimes them still getting adjusted to big-time college basketball, you never know," Heath said. "Sometimes it takes a guy a whole year, sometimes a guy takes a semester."

In Allen's case, it took no time at all.

For all the instant gratification provided by super-sized freshmen John Egbunu (team-high 18 blocks) and Chris Perry (consecutive double doubles), Allen has emerged as the most valuable addition to Heath's roster through the season's first month.

Some may argue he has been the MVP. Initially thrust into point guard duty during Anthony Collins' extended recovery from a bursa sac removal, Allen (6 feet, 152 pounds) led the Bulls to a 3-0 start.

Since then, he has segued from catalyst to complementary wing-of-all-trades.

Still USF's leader in minutes (34.5), Allen ranks second on the team in scoring (13.4) and assists (3.1) and fourth in rebounds (5.4). His points-per-game are the most for a Bulls juco transfer since Kentrell Gransberry (15.6) in 2006-07.

He nearly notched a triple double (21 points, seven rebounds, nine assists) in an early season romp of Bethune-Cookman, and he hit a winning 10-foot fadeaway with two seconds to go in last week's 68-66 victory at George Mason.

"The thing I really like about him the most is, he's made the adjustment of adapting, being coachable, being a team guy probably faster than most of the junior college guys I've had in the past," Heath said.

"Hugh Robertson was pretty good, but Hugh didn't have maybe the same effect his first year. Corey's done a nice job of really blending in with the players and just bringing a lot of energy to the court whenever he's out there."

Reared in St. Louis, Allen spent his prepubescent years worshiping Allen Iverson and playing organized ball for his dad, who had starred locally at the prep level.

He excelled at St. Louis' Ritenour High, but when low ACT scores forced him to the juco route, he enrolled at Mt. San Antonio College in the Los Angeles suburb of Walnut, Calif.

"It's a small town, real small town," Allen said. "Not a lot of distractions, strictly school and basketball."

His second year there, he averaged 21.4 points and 4.2 assists, led the school to its first juco state title and was named Southern California's junior college player of the year. By that time, Bulls assistant Steve Roccaforte was all over him.

What he and Heath saw then has continued to materialize at the Division I level. Dynamic in transition, he also possesses what Heath calls a knack for "slithering through little cracks and spaces," leading to layups or freed-up teammates.

But it's his instinct for — and elevation to — the backboard that has astounded many. Allen's 4.5 defensive boards per game rank seventh in the American Athletic Conference.

"I just feel like most guards, they don't box out," he said. "They don't think of a guard to crash the board, so I just take it to my advantage to crash the boards."

The ensuing weeks will reveal whether Allen can sustain this level. To date, there have been no signs he can't. If he doesn't hit a wall, and the chemistry between him and Collins keeps developing, the next thing he crashes may be a March dance. The big one.

"He's been able to hit the ground running," Heath said, "and hopefully he can sustain that."

HONORED AGAIN: A day after being named AAC freshman of the week, Perry earned the same honor from cbssports.com. The Bartow High alumnus, who notched double doubles in victories against George Mason and Alabama, was named Wayman Tisdale national player of the week by the website Tuesday. Previous winners this season: Kentucky's Julius Randle, Syracuse's Tyler Ennis and Duke's Jabari Parker (twice).

BULL BITS: As a result of wins against George Mason and Alabama, the men's basketball team's RPI (per ESPN's Joe Lunardi) improved from 261 to 177. … The All-American Athletic Conference football teams are expected to be released today. … The 2014 football spring game is tentatively set for March 29. … See the baseball team's 2014 roster at gousfbulls.com.

Cory Allen Jr. brings dynamic play to USF Bulls 12/10/13 [Last modified: Tuesday, December 10, 2013 6:56pm]

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