Delaware freshman Ryan Allen (above) is off to a strong start to his first college campaign. (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
For the second year in a row, a University of Delaware freshman named Ryan might be the best rookie in the CAA.
Bowie (Md.) native Ryan Allen, a 6-foot-2 combo guard, is one part of a promising trio of freshman on the Blue Hens’ roster, a class that second-year head coach Martin Ingelsby clearly has high hopes for as he continues to build the Delaware roster.
And though it might not be the same as last year, when UDel’s Ryan Daly took the CAA by storm, there’s no doubt that Allen’s having a big impact of his own in his first year in college.
“He’s a guy that when the bright lights are on, he’s ready to deliver,” Ingelsby said.
Playing with and against a tremendous amount of Division I talent in high school, Allen is no stranger to playing at a high level.
Allen attended national powerhouse DeMatha Catholic in Hyattsville, Md., about two miles northeast of Washington D.C., where he played with, among many other talented young athletes, 2017 NBA Draft No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz of the Philadelphia 76ers.
“It was competitive,” Allen said. “Practices and games, it was always competitive. There are so many players playing professionally that went to DeMatha and you got to look up to and live up to that status.”
A few notable DeMatha alumni include NBA hall-of-famer Adrian Dantley, former Delaware and current Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey, former Duke standout and No. 2 overall pick in the 1989 NBA Draft Danny Ferry, Jerian and Jerami Grant who are on the Chicago Bulls and Oklahoma City Thunder respectively, and current Indiana Pacers guard and No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft, Victor Oladipo.
Along with the NBA players, DeMatha has produced a countless number of D-I players including two members of Allen’s family.
Allen’s uncle, Leroy Allen played at Hofstra from 1983 to 1987, averaging 12.8 ppg over the span of four seasons, and Allen’s cousin Terrell Allen, who played for Drexel in the 2015-16 season, is currently a redshirt sophomore at UCF, averaging 7.3 ppg.
Allen’s father, Spencer Allen also played basketball; although not D-I, he did play at DeMatha.
Spencer would take his son to the camps at DeMatha held by the coaches when Ryan was a kid.
“We all played basketball,” Allen said. “Growing up, I caught a love for the game, basically.”
As a senior at DeMatha, the 6-foot-2 Allen was named to first team All-WCAC (Washington Catholic Athletic Conference) after leading DeMatha to a 32-5 record.
Before Allen began his senior season, he committed to playing his college ball for Ingelsby and the Blue Hens on September 13, about three months before DeMatha played its first game. Other schools that offered Allen included Towson, UAB, Mount St. Mary’s and George Mason.
“I felt like it was the best fit for me, as a player and as a student,” Martin said. “Coach Ingelsby coached great point guards at Notre Dame, I feel like he’ll develop me as a player.”
While as an assistant coach at Notre Dame (2009-16), Ingelsby coached guys like Grant, Demetrius Jackson, and Ben Hansbrough, all three of whom have spent time in the NBA.
“I think he continues to develop as a basketball player in our system,” Ingelsby said. “He’s a confident guy, he can really score on the offensive end, we really need that out of him, that’s why we recruited him.”
Allen is the CAA's leading freshman in both scoring (13.9 ppg) and 3-point shooting (40.8 percent). (Photo: Mark Jordan/CoBL)
Allen brought that offense that Ingelsby recruited for in their game against Drexel on Thursday night at the Bob Carpenter Athletic Center when he dropped 15 points on 6-of-14 shooting, including a trio of 3-pointers. After scoring six points in each of his first two college games, Allen has scored in double figures in all but two of the 13 games since, with a high-water mark of 24 points coming in a win over Cornell in late December.
Playing mostly on the wing, Allen scored 13 of his 15 points off of jump shots on Thursday night, and he is not afraid to let it fly.
“He’s a guy that’s combo guard, confident, he can really make shots I think as you see in our system, we need guys that can make shots.” Ingelsby said. “He’s unselfish, he’s extremely coachable and right now.”
“I think he’s probably the favorite for the Rookie of the Year in our league,” Ingelsby added.
So far, the numbers agree. The leading scorer amongst all CAA freshman at 13.9 ppg, Allen’s closet challenger for that crown is James Madison guard Matt Lewis, who is averaging 11.2 ppg. Allen is also the only freshman among the CAA leaders in 3-point percentage, currently No. 10 at 40.8 percent from deep.
And he’s with a program that’s no stranger to having players win conference Rookie of the Year awards.
Just last season, Daly became the fourth Blue Hen to win conference rookie of the year, setting the school’s single-season scoring (16.0 ppg) and rebounding (7.0 rpg) records for a freshman. Devon Saddler won it in 2011, Brian Pearl won it in 1992, and Anthony Wright won it in 1990.
Allen is tied for most CAA rookie of the week honors this season with two (Dec. 4, Jan. 2). The other player with two is also a Blue Hen; freshman wing Kevin Anderson won the award twice but he is sidelined for the remainder of the season with a torn meniscus.
Allen and Anderson aren’t the only freshmen contributing for the Blue Hens this season. Freshman wing Chyree Walker, the third member of Ingelsby’s first full recruiting class, is averaging 5.1 ppg on 46 percent shooting and 2.9 rpg while averaging 19.2 mpg. Walker started his ninth straight game on Thursday night.
With the injury to Anderson, Allen will have to pick up more of the scoring workload as Anderson was third on the team in scoring at 13.7 ppg.
“I think he’s continuing to figure out areas where we can score inside the arc, putting it on the floor and attacking a getting to the foul line,” Ingelsby said. “Quite frankly, I probably have to do a better job of getting the ball in his hands so we can do that because he makes some tough shots.”
Thursday’s win improved Delaware to 10-8 overall and 3-2 in CAA, an improvement over their 7-11 (0-5 in CAA) record at this point in the season last year. The Blue Hens finished the 2016-17 at 13-20 (5-13 CAA) with a quarterfinals exit in the CAA tournament.
Up next for the Blue Hens are three straight on the road, starting off in Harrisonburg, Va. where Delaware will take on James Madison (4-14, 0-5 CAA) at 4 PM on Saturday, Jan. 13.
Allen is not surprised by the level of production he is putting in as a freshman, nor is Ingelsby.
“That’s why we recruited him, for our freshman class,” Ingelsby said. “There was an opportunity for him to come in and play right away.”
“I feel like I’m going to be pretty good if I just keep working hard and keep doing what I do and just stay in my comfort zone,” Allen said.
“I should be alright.”