Grayson Allen, the beleaguered Duke junior guard who has remained a conduit of controversy this college basketball season, received support on Tuesday from perhaps an unlikely source: North Carolina coach Roy Williams.
UNC and Duke play on Thursday at Cameron Indoor Stadium, and Allen, as he’s been all season, is likely to take his place inside the media – and social media – fishbowl. His every move has been scrutinized amid an at-times bizarre pattern of behavior that led to his one-game “indefinite” suspension earlier this season.
Williams, though, said the scrutiny Allen receives is “way, way, way blown out of proportion.”
“I see him trying to get over a screen and everybody here try it,” Williams said. “You put all your weight on one foot, what does your other leg do? It goes back. So I see all those things. I think he’s a wonderful kid who he himself, and Mike (Krzyzewski) himself, has said has made some mistakes.”
During Duke’s victory against Elon on Dec. 21, Allen tripped Steven Santa Ana, a sophomore guard for the Phoenix. It was another incident, in a line of them dating to last season, in which Allen tripped an opposing player.
When Allen left the game moments later, he fumed on the bench, his emotions boiling into a visible tantrum. That scene, and Allen’s trip, were widely replayed on sports talk shows and social media.
Not long after, Duke announced that Allen would be suspended indefinitely. He sat out one game, though, before returning against Jan. 4 against Georgia Tech. Since then, Allen has found himself the subject of questions, and controversy, again and again.
Williams on Tuesday referenced one such incident: The time when Allen went tumbling out of bounds at Florida State, where some questioned whether Allen deliberately shoved Seminoles assistant coach Dennis Gates. Gates later wrote on Twitter that Allen did nothing wrong.
“I’m so old, I recruited Dennis, the assistant at Florida State,” Williams said. “Good God almighty. Now if it’d been Dennis going in, Dennis might have tried to hit somebody. But I thought that was totally nothing. Absolutely nothing. But that’s my opinion and everyone’s got one.”
Williams became familiar with Allen during Allen’s high school years, when he played on the same summer league team as Joel Berry, the Tar Heels’ junior point guard. Berry on Tuesday said it was “shocking” that Allen has continued to receive as much negative attention as he has.
Berry said Allen received “a couple of techs” in his AAU days – but not for tripping. Now it seems like a game doesn’t go by without examination of a television broadcast, Internet sleuths and bloggers trying to ascertain whether Allen tripped someone again.
“They try to find the littlest things, but that’s what happens,” Berry said. “That’s what media does, and it’s all a part of it. I think now with him being (on) the radar like he is, he just has just be twice as good. You can’t just get into situations where like I think N.C. State, he tried to walk through their huddle.
“You might as well just walk around the huddle. … You might as well just try to stay out of the media.”
Berry said he and Allen don’t regularly keep in touch these days. Their parents still “text back and forth all the time,” Berry said, and he and Allen might exchange a message every now and then.
“But nothing more than that,” Berry said.
They’ll be reunited come Thursday, the glare of the spotlight, as always, on Allen.