Tim Cooper has been a member of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette sports department since October 1988 and began reporting on high school sports full time in 1993. Cooper, a native of Malvern, attended Henderson State University and worked three years as a sports writer at the Paris News in Paris, Texas, from 1985 to 1988.
BOYS PLAYER OF THE YEAR KeVaughn Allen, North Little Rock:
New components, same results
KeVaughn Allen, who is the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's Mr. Basketball for 2014.
North Little Rock guard KeVaughn Allen isn’t one to show a lot of emotion.
“He never has a bad day, and if he does he doesn’t show it,” Coach Johnny Rice said. “You can’t tell if he has a good day because he’s the same.”
Allen, a 6-3 junior, has been selected as the All-Arkansas Preps boys player of the year by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette because he has had many more good days than bad as the key cog in North Little Rock’s run to consecutive state championships.
Allen led North Little Rock in every significant offensive category this season, helping the Charging Wildcats to a 26-2 record, nearly matching their 2013 mark of 28-1. He was the leading scorer in 2013, as well, leading the Charging Wildcats to their first state basketball title in 42 years.
North Little Rock’s state championship repeat last month came about despite a massive change in the team’s roster, with Allen’s consistent and productive play the common denominator.
“The pressure of this year compared to last year was the same for KeVaughn because he’s the same every day, every game, every practice,” said Rice, whose 2013 championship team had seven seniors on the roster. “There’s no difference in him from one day to the next, and that’s what makes him the elite player he is.”
Duplicating success with a different cast of teammates required a few minor tweaks, Allen said.
“We might have played harder,” said Allen, who was the 2013 sophomore of the year. “We might have made more sacrifices. We did what we had to do. … I had played with most of these guys before, so I think our chemistry may have been even better than the year before.”
That chemistry is one reason why Allen saw an increase in his offensive numbers during his junior season. As a sophomore, Allen averaged 18.6 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists. His numbers as a junior improved to 21.0 points, 6.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists.
“From his points to his rebounds to his assists, every one of his numbers was better than last year,” Rice said. “What’s impressive about that is that we played him at the point more than half the time. … That’s impressive to me.”
Allen also has enjoyed a knack for making an impact during postseason games. In six state tournament games during the past two seasons, Allen is averaging 23.0 points a game, including a 30-point effort in the 2013 semifinals against West Memphis. He is a combined 17 of 27 from the field in his two state championship games, including a 28-point effort in the state championship victory over Springdale on March 13.
“Both championship games felt the same to me,”said Allen, who is known for being mild-mannered and quiet on and off the court. “I was nervous at first in both of them, but after a few minutes they seemed like any other game.”
When Allen looks ahead to his senior season, he said he knows he’ll need to be more vocal.
“I’ll have to show more leadership,” Allen said. “But that’s something I’m looking forward to doing.”
Rice said that should be no problem for the Charging Wildcats’ steady performer.
“He’s a complete player and he’s coachable,” Rice said. “He’s consistent every day. … That’s the great thing about him, and that’s what coaches love about him. He’s the same every day. He comes in, does his work and he competes.”
KeVaughn Allen glance
SCHOOL North Little Rock CLASS Junior POSITION Guard HEIGHT 6-3 AGE 18 (born Oct. 10, 1995) FAMILY Mother: Ahna Rhodes. Father: Reginald Allen. Sister: LaShira. Brother: Kalon.
NOTEWORTHY Allen averaged a team high 21 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 3.2 steals per game during his junior season. He averaged 25 points per game during the Class 7A state tournament. He was named the Gatorade Player of the Year from Arkansas and the Max Preps Player of the Year from Arkansas.
Sports, Pages 26 on 04/06/2014