Tony Allen wants to rejuvenate his Oklahoma roots.
Wish that meant Allen signing a cut-rate contract with the Thunder. That would be mighty fine for those of us who enjoy big-time NBA basketball.
Instead, Allen is going a more humanitarian route. He's hosting a basketball camp at his old haunt of Gallagher-Iba Arena. And Allen is footing the bill for the Grit & Grind Basketball Skills Academy from July 29-31 in Stillwater.
For $4,000, Allen is renting the coliseum in which he once starred.
“Just looking at how I came up, pretty much started in Oklahoma,” said Allen, who went to high school at Chicago's Crane Tech, then played at two junior colleges before landing at OSU.
“Great times in Stillwater,” Allen said, of making the 2004 Final Four. “Feel like jump-started my career.”
Allen just completed his ninth NBA season. He's got a championship ring (2008 Celtics) and now is first-team all-defense and a face of the Memphis Grizzlies franchise.
But Allen, who made just $3.3 million last season, is a free agent. Who knows where he'll land? Allen expresses devotion to Memphis.
“I bleed blue,” he told csnchicago. “This is where I want to be.
“One thing that I did, through the grace of God, is I made a name for myself and a lot of teams around the league know me, so I'm not too worried about that.
“I'm just focusing on being here with the Grizzlies, because I've built relationships … showed the guys what that grit and grind is about, and it would be hard leaving the city of Memphis. They showed me so much love, so I'm thinking about Memphis all the way.”
Memphis fans and teammates don't want to ponder life without Allen. Generally considered the NBA's best perimeter defender, Allen has forged an identity in Memphis.
But Allen says that identity was born in Stillwater, courtesy of Eddie Sutton.
“He pretty much showed me the best way to get to the next level,” Allen said. “Showed me how to become a pro. Gave me a lot of discipline. Be a mentor off the court as well. He was always critiquing me, anything I could do to get better.
“Those two years, he never let me get complacent. Pushed me, pushed me, pushed me. I was blessed to play under a Hall of Fame coach like Coach Sutton.”
That 2004 Final Four team included five players that eventually made the NBA. John Lucas III, the Graham twins and Ivan McFarlin. Lucas and Joey Graham have had decent careers. But only Allen has excelled.
“At OSU, I didn't even know I was playing defense,” Allen said. “I thought I was the star, leading us in scoring. Doing a little bit of everything.
“Coach Sutton was letting me know defense was going to stick out at the next level. Once I got in the league, that was pretty much my role.
“Getting key stops. That all came from playing hard. I'm used to things like that.”
Allen staged camps in Chicago and Memphis last year. He wanted to do one in Stillwater but it never materialized. Now he's back and waiving the cost, because he wants to keep those Oklahoma ties strong.
TONY ALLEN CAMP
When: July 29-31, 9 a.m-3 p.m. daily.
Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater.
Information: 773-609-2861 or firstname.lastname@example.org.