Through rain and shine, several members of the Nebraska men’s basketball program gathered together on Saturday to make a difference in the Lincoln community.
The man who spear-headed the event at Grace Chapel in Lincoln — a back-to-school drive benefitting Everett Elementary School — was sophomore guard Thomas Allen.
Allen came up with the idea, picked out the school, organized the event and put the message out there with the guidance of director of basketball operations Gregory Eaton.
“The reason behind it is just to help somebody else out,” Allen said. “That’s pretty much the whole thing to me, just helping somebody else, seeing somebody else smile … The people here, they show a lot of love. They support us through all the games. They support every sport.”
Coach Tim Miles wasn’t the least bit surprised when he heard that Allen was organizing such an event.
“I wasn’t surprised because I know his family and Tonya and Clarence are great people,” Miles said. “He’s about all the right things. It’s so cool; every athlete at Nebraska has a chance for photo-ops and stuff like that, and this is so far on the other end of the spectrum. That’s what makes me so proud. When you look at last year’s ‘Hate Will Never Win’ championed by the guys and then when you’ve got Thomas working very hard to organize this, and it’s been such a success. Our managers are hauling stuff out of here by the van loads and that is so cool. I’m very proud of Thomas and very proud of our guys for helping him.”
Several of Allen’s teammates, team managers, coaches and coaches’ relatives all showed up to help Allen with the drive, which ran from 9 a.m. to noon in a chapel parking lot. They gathered and sorted donations, took pictures, spoke with fans and had a little fun as well.
“To me, it means everything just having my teammates here,” Allen said. “Miles just came, [assistant coach Jim Molinari] is, the staff, the managers, wives of the coaches. It means a lot.”
Redshirt freshman Justin Costello, a walk-on from Elkhorn South, was one of the players who took part.
“It’s important for me to support a teammate that’s doing something really good for the community around where we’re playing,” Costello said. “A lot of people are saying how they come to the game and are huge fans and us wanting to give back, they want to give back too.”
Senior James Palmer Jr., junior Johnny Trueblood, sophomore Nana Akenten and freshmen Brady Heiman, Amir Harris and Karrington Davis were other players who devoted their time to supporting their teammate and the community on Saturday morning.
“If everybody was here, they’d be here; I know that because it’s a close-knit group,” Miles said. “Just to see Thomas’ efforts working with Greg Eaton and having the vision for this. This is not new to Thomas — he’s done this at Brewster, his mom has done this and then the guys to step up without question and help, I think that’s pretty cool.”
The drive got off to a rough start with some morning showers, but Allen said people were showing up regardless and before long the rain stopped, allowing the group to spread out beyond the tents set up in the middle of the lot.
The crew brought a customized Huskers cornhole set along with them to give the players and fans who donated alike a chance to hang out and have some fun. Costello claimed he was the best player on the team.
“James [Palmer Jr.] and I were going crazy,” Costello said. “We were 3-0. We beat Johnny [Trueblood] and Amir [Harris], I think we beat them 21-2. You don’t want to play us in cornhole.”
Allen had someone else in mind for cornhole MVP of the day, however.
“There was a little kid with glasses; he makes it every time,” Allen said. “He was the best one out here that I’ve seen.”
The Huskers kept things loose and had fun with it throughout the morning.
Akenten auditioned for a job with ABC News in Lincoln while Palmer took a turn behind the camera as well.
The Huskers said they were caught off-guard by the number of people who rolled through the parking lot throughout the course of the three hours.
“It’s insane,” Costello said. “Thirty minutes in I looked and I was like ‘Oh my goodness.’ All of our boxes were already full and everything and it’s 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday. This is insane.”
Social media played a big part in spreading the word. Miles said he talked to one couple who dropped off a donation at the recommendation of a relative on the west coast who had read about the drive on Twitter.
By the end of the drive, the group had collected several van-loads of school supplies and clothing to donate to Everett Elementary (with any leftovers being sent on to People’s City Mission).
— Thomas Allen (@ThomasAllen5_) August 4, 2018
Allen has the opportunity to play a much bigger role for the Huskers as a sophomore, but the native of Raleigh, North Carolina, is already making a big impact months before the season-opener.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.