In the Locker Room with Chris Allen Jr., Football Captain Turned Basketball Guard


Photo courtesy of Suada Duvette

Allen began playing basketball his fourth-year thanks to a connection.

“My football career was done, so I just took advantage of it, and thankfully it worked out pretty well,” Chris Allen Jr. said when talking about joining the basketball team at Oberlin.

Allen started playing basketball when he was just five years old, and he played every year through his junior year at St. Augustine Preparatory School in Buena Vista Township, NJ. He chose not to play his senior year for a multitude of reasons.

“Once I started getting recruited for football, and some things happened with basketball, I stopped playing there and focused my attention,” he said.

Allen decided to go all-in on football, as it was the sport he believed he had a better future in, and his decision proved fruitful. He came to Oberlin and played in 28 games as a quarterback, finishing his football career this year in the Yeomen’s record books at fourth all-time in both career passing yards and career passing touchdowns.

However, when a new men’s basketball coaching staff was hired to lead men’s basketball, Allen reached out with the help of a connection in hopes of playing right after football ended.

“One of the guys that I worked with over the summer knew the head coach, [Shiva Senthil], so I reached out to him over the summer and told him I wanted to play,” Allen said.

That connection helped him get the opportunity, and when Allen arrived on campus this fall, he met with Senthil.

“I talked to him and just figured out the things I needed to do to be a part of the team, and the rest is history,” Senthil said. “Right off the bat you could see Chris’s leadership. He really picked up on our offense, was incredibly tough; he really could defend the post and rebound, and those are all the things that we were kind of looking for.”

The path Allen took to play basketball is different from the recruiting process most players go through in high school. One such example is Brian McGrath, a first-year guard on Oberlin’s squad. McGrath’s recruitment began during the fall of his senior year of high school with connections his AAU coach had to college programs.

“[My AAU coach] sent them my transcript, highlights on YouTube, high school accolades, and after that I got on the phone with [the Oberlin basketball coaches] and talked, and eventually I came after them,” McGrath said.

Just a week after his senior day game against The College of Wooster in football, Allen joined the basketball team. He noted that he still had to get in better shape to adapt to basketball.

“The pace of practice is a little bit different, a lot more quick pace running, so it took me a little bit to get in shape with everything,” Allen said. “Once I got into that rhythm, it was kind of natural, because it’s just something that I’ve been doing my whole life.”

However, Allen’s natural ability, along with his time shooting hoops during the football season, made the transition much smoother. He apeared in 17 games for the Yeomen and started five of them. Allen was a starter in one of the team’s biggest wins of the season — an upset over The College of Wooster on Jan. 28.

“It’s one of those things that once you have it, once you start getting the reps again, everything kind of came back,” he said. “The first day of practice, I came in, I hit every shot I had. I just felt comfortable.”

In addition to the physical adjustment, Allen didn’t always have a big voice on the basketball team. Although he was a football captain that year, he still had to adjust and earn his role as a leader and voice in a new group.

“I didn’t want to just come in and be the loudmouth, because I hadn’t been there,” Allen said. “I hadn’t played on the basketball team throughout my four years. As I was able to prove myself and show what I offered to the team, … the voice came over time. I think that’s just a natural quality that I’ve had.”

Allen finished his one season of college basketball with 35 career points and 21 career rebounds across 17 games. McGrath looks back on Allen’s short time on the team fondly.

“Chris was a great teammate, a really good leader,” McGrath said. “He’s a great guy.”