Growing up in the Philadelphia area, it's pretty convenient to take in a Temple Owls basketball game. They happened to be pretty good at the end of the 2000s as well, amassing a couple Atlantic 10 titles and a few NCAA tournament appearances, making them a good place to catch some decent ball.
The team had their enigmatic character in (former Sixer) Khalif Wyatt, and a tremendous point guard in Juan Fernandez. Temple wasn't led by either of those two, but their rather emotionless and sometimes awkward to watch big man, Lavoy Allen. His talent was undeniable, the now-25-year-old was quietly putting up a double-double a night for the Owls, but he looked as though he was just going through the motions. There was little energy emanating from his game, thus leaving him on the receiving end of a lot of heckling, most notably from my father.
Everyone knew he could be completely dominant. The question was why it seemed like he didn't want to put in the effort to get there.
But the Sixers saw something in Lavoy Allen too, and after he declared for the selected him with the 50th overall pick. Philadelphia believed the homegrown player had the talent to make it at the next level, and with a little help from Doug Collins, could harness the drive to make Allen a good player in the NBA. In his rookie season, it looked like it was working.,
He was shooting the ball well and making his presence felt, especially in the playoffs. In the Eastern Conference semi-finals, it was Allen who was able to subdue Kevin Garnett, helping to drag the series out to seven games. I even made a photoshop in which Lavoy looked like he was Garnett's father. All of that drive and aggression that he had suppressed for so many years was finally being brought to the surface. It was the perfect story, a native son of Philadelphia thriving with the hometown team, his future as a solid contributor to the team looked bright.
How things have drastically changed since his rookie campaign. With a new coach to impress this season, Allen came into training camp overweight, out of shape, and even overslept for practice. When Brett Brown actually allowed him on the court, he looked timid and uncomfortable. Occasionally, Allen made plays this year that showed a glimmer of hope that he could return to his rookie year form, but those moments never seemed to last long enough. But at this point it was clear, getting by on just talent alone as he did at Temple would not work at the pro ranks.
Now Allen is off to Indiana with a chance at a fresh start, leaving behind a city where hope for him was unfulfilled. If he wants to make it with the Pacers, he'll need to re-kindle the fire we saw more than three years ago.