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Boys Town's Teddy Allen Prepares for Star-Studded Senior Year

'I chose to come here for a reason'

This article is written by Josh Planos. It was published August 22, 2016 on ketv.com.

Teddy Allen wanted to know where the cameras were and why they weren't rolling.

Not in a bellicose way, mind you, nor even with a hint of irritation; he was just curious, perhaps a tad perplexed.

This isn’t uncommon: As a reporter for a local TV station, someone who doesn’t appear on air, working in an industry that doubles as a sea of often recognizable faces, the act of interviewing someone is altered fairly significantly. See, there sat a much-talked-about high school athlete, who spent the summer garnering scholarship offers for his craft at about the same pace he poured in buckets, dressed to the nines; on a breezy mid-August Wednesday, he donned a pastel-purple collared shirt and khaki slacks. Maybe he even woke up early for this obligation -- yet another interview with yet another journalist for a player getting increasingly comfortable with both. He sat next to his head coach, Tom Krehbiel, who was draped in business casual. They were flanked by two bright-eyed school representatives, dressed nice enough to get into any restaurant in the city.

I wore shorts and a light-blue short-sleeved shirt.

They were expecting cameras -- and there wasn't a single red light blinking back at any of them.

I stumbled over a repeated mumbling apology; clearly something was lost in translation.

People -- collegiate athletic departments, coaches, players, fans -- want to hear from the pride of Boys Town, which is what brought me to him.

But Allen, though, one of, if not the top basketball player on the Nebraska high school circuit, won't have to wait much longer for cameras. He might do well to savor the time not having to address them, not having to worry about them covering and dissecting his every move, because that clock is rapidly winding down.

****

Like many who flourish within its framework and structure, Allen was firm when he declared he's no longer the same person who first came to Boys Town. Gone is the boy who arrived in Omaha, nearly 1,400 miles from home. "As a person," he said, "I'm not the same as I was. I wasn't a bad kid; I just didn't have as open a mind to things that I do now."
What's changed, I asked.

"For me as a person, probably just calmer, smarter, more mature."

He understands the outside perception of his new home: Boys Town, a sanctuary for the at-risk, the neglected, those in need of help in some degree.

"Boys Town isn’t a place for bad people," he whispered with a genuine, spirit-lifting smile, nearly quoting Father Flanagan verbatim. "It’s a place for people who just want opportunities and an environment where they can thrive.

"It’s not what people think it is."

What "people think it is" varies, but high school athletics seldom bring out the politically correct -- or even accurate -- descriptors of a place where staff members work diligently, exhaustively, every single day, to save another generation of youths.

"I’ve heard everything, like from student sections, from people around the country. Like, ‘You’re a bad kid. What’d you do?’ Like, it’s nothing like that. I’ve not met a bad kid since I got here."

He speaks like a living, breathing made-for-TV commercial, which makes sense considering he's been nothing short of A Success Story since he arrived in mid-August of 2015.

"If you're trying to grow as a person and set yourself up for success, this is a really great place to come," he said. "I chose to come here for a reason."

When he was a freshman at Desert Ridge High School in Arizona, Teddy dunked for the first time during a water break.

"I had no bounce freshman year," he said, laughing, "but I was tall so I was on varsity."

His teammates made fun of him for not being able to sky over the rim. So one day he soared while his friends rested.

"Couldn't dunk for like two months after that, but I dunked that one time," he said.

Teddy became a standout player almost overnight, becoming the team's second-leading scorer while netting better than 50 percent of his looks from beyond the arc. His sophomore year, he earned honorable mention All-State while scoring better than 18 points and grabbing better than six rebounds per contest.

However, grade troubles were frequent, he told Husker Online's Robin Washut, and led to his father, a Nebraska native, recommending a move.

As far as basketball aspirations were concerned, the move was nonsensical on paper; players like Richard Jefferson, Mike Bibby and Channing Frye cut their teeth in Arizona high school gyms. But Nebraska? Four players ever who attended Nebraska high schools played more than six years in the league. Those numbers are even slimmer at Boys Town.

As Allen put it: "You don’t see athletes coming through here."

After not being allowed to play through Christmas, he made his debut in January against Scotus Central Catholic, the state runner-up the year prior. Allen had 32 points for a Boys Town club that was 3-4 at the time. Scotus went on to win the state title.

Less than two months later, Larry McBryde, an 18-year-old senior from Erwin, North Carolina, and a starting guard on the team, died from cardiac dysrhythmia associated with cardiac fibrosis. He was found dead on the floor of his private room. Larry had enough credits to graduate, so Krehbiel framed his jersey and sent it home to his family along with his diploma. The school still hasn't fully processed the incident, and plans to honor him again this season.

One day later, the team was to play Wahoo in the C1-5 subdistrict semifinals.

With heavy hearts, tear-stained cheeks and little sleep, Krehbiel rallied his team.

"The last thing I asked our team before we left for the game was just to stay in the moment, make the game important,’’ Krehbiel told the Omaha World-Herald. “It was OK to make this game important and then come back to grieving later."

Allen, one of McBryde’s closest friends on the team, donned a black long-sleeved T-shirt that read, “R.I.P. Big Brother."

Then he dropped 31 points on Wahoo, snapped their 12-game winning streak and ended their season.

****

Sitting in a conference room tucked inside the Skip Palrang Memorial Fieldhouse, a wry smile draped across Teddy's face when I mentioned one of his final, major high school hurdles: the ACT.

"That's a long test," he said. "It's a grind."

A tutor is helping him with math -- "It's not my easiest subject," he admitted -- ahead of the standardized test, which is scheduled for Sept. 10.

He's asking around -- for tips, motivation, advice, anything, really.

"I'll be prepared for it," he confidently said. "Just prepare and pray about it."

A good-enough score on the test could lead to more Division 1 offers, something Allen isn't short on but wouldn't mind seeing more of. Before moving on, he stretched his back and leaned back in his folding chair.

"I want to only take it one time."

****

When the season ended, Allen didn't wait long to pick up a basketball. After some conversations with Krehbiel, he decided to try out for the Omaha Sports Academy Crusaders. For some, that's when the show really started: on the AAU circuit.

Over the course of a few days in Las Vegas, Allen, who was only sitting on a few offers at the time, received scholarship offers from Iowa State, George Mason, Virginia Tech and DePaul almost instantaneously. He poured in 30-point performances, tallied up double-doubles and made scouts pay attention.

"Those guys are cool," he said of his teammates. "I didn’t really know any of them going into the season, but we grew real close over those nine, 10 tournaments we played or whatever. A great organization. Best in Nebraska.”

"We hand-picked the Crusaders and that coach, just for a lot of different reasons," Krehbiel said. "Nothing bad towards anybody else. We were very pleased with how that all turned out. They played in tournaments that allowed him to be seen and then he took full advantage of all that. He had a great experience. He was coached well, whether he likes it or not all the time (laughs)."

During the summer, Teddy put a ball off the glass and dunked it himself off the rebound -- a self-thrown alley-oop, a move mostly reserved for dunk contests and video games. His coach pulled him immediately.

Asked what he'd do with a breakaway this season, he smiled. "I'll put it off the glass. We'll see if he gives me some leniency on that."

Entering this season, he's sitting on around a dozen offers, from bigger programs like Cincinnati, West Virginia and Texas Christian, and smaller ones like South Dakota State and the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Creighton and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln are reportedly quite interested in the burgeoning stud.

"He’s considered seven," Krehbiel said of Teddy's offers. "Now, there’s more, but there’s some that are going to be turned down. There’s six or seven out there that he’s weighing.”
Worth noting: Allen's brother, Timmy Allen, who attends Desert Ridge, is a talented prospect, too. The brothers are only one year apart, and Timmy holds offers from Creighton, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Arizona State, and a few others. The one offer they have in common? DePaul.

Would they consider going to the same spot?

"It’s easily a possibility," Teddy said. "It’s something we talk about. We both aren’t like prioritizing our recruitment on that, but it’s a topic of discussion."

Fit is everything, and Teddy acknowledged that since it's a basketball scholarship being mulled over, he has a basketball decision to make.

"I just look at it like, where am I going to fit best? What's going to set me up best to maximize my potential in college so I can play at that next level?"

****

Teddy is quite tall in person.

He grew up being the tallest player on almost every court he stepped on and, at 6-foot-6, he remains one of the taller players in Class C-1 basketball.

He grew up in the post, a bruiser who could corral rebounds and find opportunities on the glass.

"Growing up, like, up until fourth grade as a post has literally shaped my game," he said. "Like, all these coaches I’m talking to, they really like the versatility in my game. And being able to do that just stems from how my coaches played me when I was young."

But he isn't about to walk into a college gym and helm the low block; he'll be a wing, albeit one with more refined back-to-the-basket moves and an impressive rebounding prowess.

"He’s learning to be more of a play-maker," Krehbiel said. "How to incorporate other people into his game. He was clearly very good with the ball in his hand last year and could really score when he wanted to. Now, when teams run two and three people at him, he’s learning how to be a play-maker, how to share the ball, what’s the right play.

"The thing he needs to work on and continue to work on is to move without the ball, play the game in other areas without the basketball in his hand, and he’s learning how to do that."

Asked who his game mirrors in the NBA, Teddy immediately mentioned Carmelo Anthony, the 6-foot-8, nine-time NBA all-star currently playing for the New York Knicks. "Score any type of way," he said. His favorite player has long been LeBron James. "I'm not going to say LeBron," he said when asked about his NBA composite, "because that's the G.O.A.T. I wouldn't disrespect him like that."

While his highlight reel is littered with splices of him attacking the rim, his ball-handling and defense will be refined over the upcoming season. After earning first-team All-State, while averaging better than 26 points and 12 rebounds per contest a season ago, one would expect Teddy to become complacent, or at least acknowledge the ceiling of potential improvement is considerably smaller than others. That's not his style.

"There's a lot of room for improvement," he said. "I would expect to blow those numbers out of the water."

"He's fun to be around," Krehbiel said when asked what the Omaha community should know about arguably the city's top basketball talent. "Fun to coach. I think the sky’s the limit.

"You know, he asked me a couple weeks ago when he got back, he said do I think he can play in the NBA? And he’s always on that, ‘I’m going to play in the NBA, coach. I’m going to play.’ Yeah, yeah. Well I told him that how far he’s come in a year should show us all that he can accomplish anything that he wants to. He’s done all this work -- some of it basketball, but a majority of it in the classroom, just in his personality and behavior, to set himself up to where it is a possibility to go make a living doing this game and something that he loves. That needs to be respected."

Teddy, it appears, is ready to take flight.