2:58:27 MBB Photo Day 2019

Kentucky freshman guard Dontaie Allen poses for a photo during men's basketball photo day on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, at the Joe Craft Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

In the small town of Falmouth, Kentucky, just 40 miles south of Cincinnati, a shy, quiet kid has dreamed of playing basketball for the Kentucky Wildcats since he was eight years old. That young man’s wish is now coming true.

His name is Dontaie Allen.

A 6-foot-6, 185-pound guard out of Pendelton County High School, Allen is the Cats’ first in-state signee since Mount Washington, Kentucky, native Derek Willis in 2013. He joins the likes of Willis, Dominique Hawkins, Jack “Goose” Givens and Dirk Minniefield among many others.

Despite only playing 13 games in his senior season last year, he still averaged a monster 42.9 points-per-game and 14.2 boards-per-game. He finished his high school career with 3,255 points – the 11th highest total ever by a high school boys basketball player in Kentucky history.

“When you’re born in Kentucky and you grow up around BBN [Big Blue Nation], you just learn to love them [UK fans]. I love them,” Allen said.

While his overall journey to UK began over 10 years ago, his most recent journey began last year on Dec. 22. In a home game against the Cooper High School Jaguars, Allen injured himself after landing hard on a fall during the play and left the game. Two weeks later, things went from bad to worse when he was officially diagnosed with a torn ACL. Allen’s senior season was over.

But his problems were just getting started.

About three months later, Allen was driving down Russell Cave Road in Harrison County, which sits between Falmouth and Lexington, early on the morning of Apr. 3. According to a Kentucky State Police report, he was heading to Lexington for physical therapy on his ACL when he struck a tree. The only passenger in the vehicle, Allen broke his collarbone in the process. He had surgery thereafter.

Now rehabbing both a broken collarbone and a torn ACL, Allen was down but not out. He continued attending physical therapy while healing from the car wreck. Once he got onto campus, he pushed the gas pedal and hasn’t slowed down ever since then.

“Everybody motivated me to keep pushing and to keep going, telling me that this wasn’t my last go and to pretty much just, keep going,” Allen said.

You can ask Ashton Hagans about that too. A veteran guard who is one of the Cats’ unquestioned leaders, he said he’s taken Allen under his wing. Yet the learner has had the master’s head turning.

“If I’m hurt, the only thing I’d be doing is recovery. Dontaie though, you’ll see him coming in at six o’clock, five o’clock in the morning running up and down the floor, getting up shots with a brace on,” Hagans said. “Like, dang, he’s already ready to work. He’s a special player.”

As hard as Allen works, he does so in silence. Allen already gave many short answers to reporters during UK media day. He’s no different with strangers. But, according to his teammates, the trick is to get on his good side.

“Once you get close to him, he’ll open up to you. He’ll start talking more,” UK guard Zan Payne said.

UK head coach John Calipari told reporters on Media Day back on Oct. 1 that he “guesses Allen will be back within a month.” There have been no official reports of his injury status since then. Allen’s outlook seems positive though as he told reporters that “weekly and monthly, I can feel myself getting back to where I was.”

Once Allen gets closer to full recovery though, his childhood dreams will finally come full circle.