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The triple threat

Consider the multi-sport personality of Robinson High's Desmond Allison. Is he a dominant point guard or game-breaking wide receiver? Does he favor triple-doubles or touchdowns?

How about both?

"I can do both with no problem," Allison said. "I shouldn't have to choose. I really don't want to choose. Right now, it's the fall, so I'm playing football."

And playing it better than anyone could have imagined.

Allison, a 6-foot-6, 195-pound senior, has 21 receptions for 464 yards (22.1 average) and eight touchdowns. Also a defensive back, he has 13 total touchdowns, including a stunning, last-play 90-yard return of a missed field goal to beat Armwood 26-20.

"Desmond is absolutely sensational," said Robinson football coach Bud Hodgens, whose Knights (6-1) have a Friday night non-district game at Durant (4-2). "He's an exceptional athlete with some fierce competitiveness. He's one of the top three players I have ever coached.

"And you know what? He's a pretty fair basketball player, too."

Pretty fair? That's an understatement.

Allison is one of the nation's top basketball recruits. He averaged 36.3 points, 12 rebounds and 9.8 assists last season, just a fraction from averaging a triple-double. And that's something he accomplished as a sophomore (29.9 points, 12 rebounds, 10.2 assists).

He primarily is considering scholarship offers from Texas, South Florida and Florida, but Indiana and Kentucky also have made inquiries. Before he signs with any school, though, Allison must improve his grade-point average to become college eligible.

With academic improvement, Allison said he might consider a dual-sport scholarship offer.

"No one questions Desmond's basketball ability because he's got to be one of the best this county has seen," Robinson fullback/linebacker Larrell Johnson said. "But let me tell you, we're glad to see him on the football field. If we ever need a touchdown, he'll get it just by running faster and jumping higher than anybody on the other defense. He's rare."

Rarer still, because some observers say he's taking a risk. In this era of specialization and year-round workouts, most top basketball players concentrate on hoops. But Allison is a three-sport athlete (including track and field), with the blessing of Knight basketball coach Scott Wagers.

"You only go to high school once, and Desmond really does like to play football," said Wagers, who has four of his basketball players on the football team. "His No. 1 priority remains basketball. I somewhat questioned Desmond's decision to play football because he could use the time to work on his grades and improve his grade-point average. Or he could be in the gym working on his basketball.

"But it's his decision. And he has certainly been electrifying in football this season. Hey, I like those football kids. The football mentality helps our style, which is primarily a lot of pressing and trapping. If they can do both and it doesn't hurt their schoolwork, let them play both."

Wagers holds his practices later in the day, to accommodate his football-playing team members. The Knights appear headed for a runner-up finish in Class 4A, District 12, so the state playoffs could prolong Robinson football by at least one week. Basketball season begins Nov. 17. Three days later, the Knights might have a playoff football game.

"I told Desmond in the beginning, "If you're not going to stay with football the whole time, I don't want you to come out,' " Hodgens said. "He told me he would honor that and be a full-time player until our season ends.

"Scott Wagers and I have had a good relationship through this. I think we both agree that high-school athletes should enjoy themselves and be as versatile as they want to be. Desmond has that right."

Allison has accomplished his football exploits in 5{ games. He missed the Sept. 12 opener, a 32-12 loss to district rival Jesuit, because he was playing with the Tennessee Travelers, an AAU basketball team. Last week at Palm Harbor University, he and running back Zain Gilmore were suspended for the first half due to disciplinary reasons.

Hodgens said Allison is not a problem player, despite some incidents last season. Allison was suspended for 13 basketball games after being ejected for unsportsmanlike behavior. He was ejected from a football game against Zephyrhills _ "he pushed off of another player when he was getting up, a pretty minor little shove," according to Hodgens _ and was suspended the next week.

"I don't question Desmond's character," Hodgens said. "He needs to bear down in the classroom, but I've never heard him say an unsportsmanlike word to another player. He's not a sweetheart _ I mean, Desmond wants to win and he's competitive _ but he does nothing malicious on the field.

"I think he's a special talent. He's always around the ball, on both sides of the ball. He's going to go a long way. And if he ever doesn't want to play basketball, I think he could make a living as a football player. I really do."