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Filling a tall order

Owls freshman Allen making presence known

When you spend most of your life towering above your peers, the only thing you grow to expect is people looking up to you.

Nearly everyone has looked up to Lavoy Allen since the day he decided to pick up a basketball 5 years ago as a freshman at Pennsbury High School. They weren't looking up to him just because he stood more than 6 inches taller than everyone else. They were looking up to him with high expectations on the basketball court.

"I think that year had to be the hardest time of my life. I almost quit basketball and I had just started," said Allen, who is now the only starting freshman on the Temple basketball roster.

"I was only averaging about four points, so every time I walked down the hallway, I had people criticizing me and saying, 'Man, if I was your size I would be doing this or I would be doing that.' "

Allen didn't let those expectations weigh him down. Instead, he spent 6 days a week that following summer working on his game with Pennsbury coach Frank Sciolla and made the jump from befuddled freshman to a starring sophomore. By the end of his senior year, he was one of the top 15 centers in the nation, as ranked by

"My biggest thing was that I just wanted to prove people wrong and shut up my critics back then," said Allen, a forward with the Owls.

Anyone who might have doubted him back then is almost certainly biting his tongue today. Allen is fourth in scoring for the Owls, averaging 8.7 points per game, to go along with his 5.1 rebounds per outing.

"This is a kid who has a real good feel for the game all around," Owls coach Fran Dunphy said. "That's something that most coaches often appreciate in a sense that you don't have to teach them a great deal about the nuances of the game. He has very good understanding of what it is he has to do on the court."

Allen is also second on the team with 13 blocks, and has scored in double figures in six of Temple's 12 games.

Still the 6-9, 18-year-old understands there is a lot more work to be done. He said the demands that were placed on him in high school have prepared him for the stresses of playing in a Division I program - a program in which many expect him to be the face of the future.

"I don't think it's pressure, really," Allen said. "I've been playing this game for a couple years now, so it's not much different, regardless of what people expect from me. I just have to play the way I can, whether it's good or bad. Just work hard."

Only 12 games into his collegiate career, Allen already is taking notes on the parts of his game that he wants to improve drastically. He said that while his conditioning from the high-school level to college has improved, he wants to improve his play in the post and his footwork.

Allen, a kinesiology major who would be the first person in his family to graduate from college, said he easily stayed afloat with the help of his parents and his late brother, Antonio Green, whom he uses as inspiration before each game. Green, 24, was shot and killed 1 year ago in Trenton during an apparent robbery attempt.

"I think about him before every game, because I know he's watching me from up there, and he always wanted me to succeed," said Allen, pausing to gather himself. "He was around a lot. He was the one that would take me to playgrounds to play. We were real close."

Allen said that while he feels himself developing into a more aggressive player, he wants to become a dominant force inside the paint like his idol Dwight Howard, of the Orlando Magic.

"My brother used to tell me I dunked too soft. I think I have to change that," he said, laughing.

He'll have the opportunity to put his aggressiveness to the test tomorrow against ninth-ranked Duke. Allen said his toughest challenges so far have come against Ohio's Leon Williams and Florida's Marreese Speights, who scored 20 points in Temple's last outing Dec. 29, an 86-69 Owls loss. Williams netted 31 in a 90-88 Owls victory on Nov. 29.

Still, nothing has come as a shock to Allen. Not even the hype surrounding Duke, which has five of its top six players averaging double figures, will make him approach his game any differently.

"They might have All-Americans, but I think some of us are just as talented as they are," Allen said. "At the end of the day, it all depends on who outworks who, and that'll determine who the winner of the game will be." *