More than most, Tony Allen consistently expresses a deep appreciation for the people and places that paved his path to the NBA.
That, in particular, includes those who made his two-year stay at Oklahoma State such a successful one.
Ask about his college degree and he’ll laud the academic advisers. Ask about his world-class defense and he turns the conversation toward Eddie Sutton, his former coach and lifelong mentor.
“This is where I got all that grind work from,” Allen said at his basketball camp in Stillwater on Wednesday, pointing down to the Gallagher-Iba hardwood as a way of emphasizing his point. “(Where I) got that technique from. This is how I was able to study film and break down each individual that I’m gonna cover. Everything that I do today in this league, being able to guard these players, I got to salute Coach Sutton.”
But in recent years, despite a deep-seeded love for the program, Allen has fallen out of touch with it.
The NBA schedule is hectic, not allowing in-season visits to Stillwater. And many of the brand names from his time, particularly the Suttons, are gone, replaced by a new regime.
He’s still an OSU fan. Still sends out congratulatory tweets after big wins. “I watch a lot of YouTube,” he said. “So I’m pretty familiar with who the (current players) are, the Smart kid and the Nash kid.”
But his connection to the program has been strictly on an outsider basis. And that’s something he hopes to change.
“I definitely want to be involved,” Allen said. “This is where I got my career off the ground at and I can’t say any more good words about this great place.”
And minutes after expressing those sentiments, preliminary plans to fulfill that wish were set in motion.
As Allen’s camp was wrapping up, Travis Ford emerged on the GIA floor to greet him. Ford then gave him a grand tour of the new facilities, including the multi-million dollar locker room, which is adorned with pictures of Allen, among other OSU greats.
“It was the first time I’ve been able to spend a good amount of time with him,” Ford said. “He’s really just a great guy. Energetic, really nice, talkative. And what a success story.”
After the tour, Allen stuck around for an extended conversation with Ford and his basketball support staff.
Within it, they mentioned a developing plan to honor the 10th anniversary of Allen’s 2004 Final Four team at one of this season's conference games, with the hope of holding it during the NBA’s All-Star weekend, so Allen can attend.
“I like to see it like this,” Allen said of the state of the OSU program. “And if the schedule opens up, I would love to come back and visit more. I’m glad to see that they are going to be top-five next year, so it’s all good for me. I get to brag in the locker room.”