Cleveland Cavaliers big man Jarrett Allen is growing into an impressive and important piece of the young team’s core.
However, his success on the basketball court is not all that the five-year pro is interested in. In a recent phone interview with Kelsey Russo of The Athletic, Allen discussed an opportunity he had over the summer to help spread the game of basketball to distant corners of the world through Basketball Without Borders.
Earlier this month, Allen helped coach the Basketball Without Borders Asia camp in Australia. The camp featured 60 of the top male and female high school-aged players from over 15 countries throughout the Asia-Pacific.
“The thing that stood out to me is how well the kids were already adapted to playing high-level basketball,” Allen said. “One thing that the States prides itself on is our athletic ability. Every kid at 15 can do a windmill nowadays. … Just over there, at Basketball Without Borders, it was kids making the right reads, even on defensive things that took me a while to learn in the NBA. It seemed like these kids had it down immediately, and we didn’t have to teach them some of the concepts; they just knew it automatically. And the passes that they were making seemed like they could make the right read or be in the right spot.”
He added that just from watching the youngsters play, he could tell that they had already developed a great love for the game.
“I could tell that they had a love for basketball — whether it was learning how to shoot, staying after long days at the camp to shoot, whether it was talking with their teammates on how to make the right backdoor cut, they had the energy to learn something,” he said.
When Allen was traded to the Cavs in 2021, his inclusion in the James Harden blockbuster deal was something of an afterthought. Now, it wouldn’t be that shocking of a statement to say that the Cavs were the team that ultimately won that trade.
Last season, the 24-year-old big man was voted to his first All-Star Game. He averaged 16.1 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. It was his best season at the NBA level.
He’s the perfect big man to clog up lanes to the basket for a Cavs team that is led by undersized point guard Darius Garland. Together, the two are expected to lead the team to heights that have not been enjoyed since LeBron James left the franchise back in 2018.
Now, Allen believes that he was gifted the perfect opportunity by being traded to the Cavs in 2021.
“I think I landed in the perfect spot to grow as a person and as a player,” he said.
In Cleveland, the next big goal for Allen, Garland and company is to make it clear that the post-James rebuild is over by advancing to the playoffs in the 2022-23 campaign.
They seem poised to get it done.