Teddy Allen’s path to Lincoln has been a long and winding one, filled with triumphs and missteps, tragedies and bad decisions.
The Arizona native and Boys Town graduate started his college career at West Virginia before transferring to Wichita State. The NCAA denied his waiver request for immediate eligibility, forcing him to redshirt the 2018-19 season, and his time as a Shocker came to an end before he ever got a chance to suit up.
Allen got arrested and subsequently expelled from Wichita State following an incident with an ex-girlfriend that saw him booked for criminal damage to property (domestic violence) and petit theft.
Seeking to get his basketball career back on track, Allen turned to the junior college ranks and returned to the state where he became a high school star wanted by colleges all over the country. “Teddy Buckets” enrolled at Western Nebraska Community College and proceeded to live up to is nickname, leading all of NJCAA Division I in scoring at 31.4 points per game.
Despite the on-court success, there weren’t a lot of coaches that were willing to take a chance on him, but Fred Hoiberg isn’t a lot of coaches. He offered Allen in November and the 6-foot-5 guard pulled the trigger less than a month later.
“We talked to a lot of people that had been in Teddy’s life, including the coaches that he played for and obviously his support staff, and we were very comfortable taking on Teddy,” Hoiberg told reporters during a conference call back in April. “Especially with the conversation that we had with him going all the way back to when we first went out and saw him out in Scottsbluff and staying in touch with him throughout the season … We were very comfortable bringing Teddy on board and we’re excited about everything that he can offer.”
Western Nebraska Community College coach Cory Fehringer raved to Hail Varsity about Allen’s work ethic this past season, and Hoiberg heard all the same stories and more as he did his due diligence.
“Talking to people, even going back to his previous school, one strength coach sent us an email unsolicited saying he’s his favorite athlete that he’s worked with of all time,” Hoiberg said. “Just his work ethic and holding guys accountable in the weight room and that type of thing. Talking to Cory [Fehringer], the head coach out at Western, he said he didn’t have one issue with him this year and said he was phenomenal as far as everything that he did with the players and the community. We’re excited about what he’s going to bring to our program.”
Part of the reason Allen chose Wichita State when he left West Virginia was he wanted to get closer to the city that had become his home, Omaha, along with the people that were closest to him. One of those people is Vernon Davis, and assistant basketball coach at Boys Town.
“It’s kind of funny how things just come full circle,” Davis told Hail Varsity. “He was in Arizona, and then came to us at Boys Town in high school and then he got his second chance at ball and got his scholarship. Then just kind of full circle again, the whole West Virginia thing and then the whole Wichita State, going the JUCO route and now he’s back in Nebraska. It’s probably the best spirits that he’s been in, so it’s good that he’s here and he’s back home now.”
Davis is one of many people in Omaha that Allen has in his corner. Morgantown, West Virginia is a 14-hour drive from Omaha. Wichita is a four-and-a-half-hour trip. In Lincoln, he’ll be just 45 minutes away from his support system.
“The coaches at Boys Town, administration and everything like that when it comes to Boys Town, he’s got them in his corner,” Davis said. “Then with me and my little brother, Scottie, in his corner too helping him out here and there. He’s got his son here. Adam Barnes and the Going Vertical staff have played a huge part too just because he’s there every day, working on his game, getting stronger. That’s basically his next family too … He’s got a lot of people here that are in his corner, and also friends that he came up with in high school, playing ball with guys here. They’re in his support system too. It’s good that he has people that he knows, that he can relate to.”
Allen found great individual success on the court at Western Nebraska, but junior college isn’t easy, especially coming from schools like West Virginia and Wichita State. He had to work hard to earn another shot at playing D-I ball.
“A lot of people understand that JUCO life is different than a Division I player’s,” Davis said. “He had to go without the stipends and all that. All he had was the grind. Just out at Western Nebraska, it was the gym, school and home … That was his main focus, just grinding, being in the gym. He’s a gym rat when it comes to that, and that year at Western Nebraska, the only thing you can do is be in the gym and he took advantage. I think that helped his game a lot.”
Having to go that route—and everything that he went through that led him to Scottsbluff—had a significant impact on him off the court as well.
“He’s really focused now,” Davis said. “He has tunnel vision, just really focused on getting to campus and being the best Teddy that he can be, off the court too. He’s made a lot of good strides and growth with that, mentally and just keeping his head right, being around the right people and just doing the right things and being a good citizen when he’s here.
“When it comes to Teddy, he has his moments, but he’s all-around a great, great person to be around. That’s the biggest misconception about Teddy is that he might not be the greatest person, but if you get to know Teddy he’s one of the greatest people that I’ve ever been around, just as a person off the court. On the court can be different, he has his attitude and stuff like that here and there, but that’s just the competitive nature that he brings.”
The last time fans saw Allen on a Division I court he was getting buckets in the NCAA Tournament with the Mountaineers. His game has changed quite a bit in the two years since, however.
“He’s lost weight and toned up his body now, and he used to go sometimes 100 miles per hour, but he’s got a pace to his game now to where he’s thinking the game better, he’s being smarter when it comes to being with the ball and off the ball,” Davis said. “He’s playing defense now consistently, a great defender now. A lot of big strides. Also, the shooting too; I just remember at West Virginia they wouldn’t let him shoot because he was shooting 10% to start, but now he’s junior college 50-40-90. That’s tough for any level of the game. I think people are going to be really impressed when it comes to checking I'm out his year.”
Hoiberg certainly was impressed, and he has plenty of experience with second-chance players from his time at Iowa State. Transfers like Royce White and Korie Lucious had productive seasons in Ames after getting in trouble at their previous schools.
“He averaged almost 32 points per game, he had 17 30-plus-point games, he had four 40-point games this year,” Hoiberg said. “He’s an 88% free-throw shooter, which I know is music to all of our ears, and he was third in free-throw attempt rate in junior college this past year and a 38% 3-point shooter. For a volume scorer and a volume shooter to have the percentages — 51% overall, 38 from 3 and 88 from the free-throw line, those are phenomenal numbers. He’s been great as far as everything we’re asking of him and we’re excited to get him to campus.”
Student-athletes can return to campus starting on Monday, so Allen’s journey as a Husker is just about to begin. In the meantime, he’s been in the gym as much as possible out at Going Vertical, a training facility in West Omaha.
“Any time he wants to get in they’re always supporting him,” Davis said. “I’ve got to give credit to the Going Vertical staff too for helping out and jumping in with keeping him in shape and keeping his game pretty tight.”
Hoiberg gave Allen another chance, and with people like Davis in his corner and just a short drive from campus, the junior guard is hoping to make the most of it.