Former Oklahoma State small forward Tony Allen is a perfect example of how not all successful NBA players spend less than four years in college.
Allen was a junior college transfer before playing out his final two seasons of eligibility at Oklahoma State. He was named the Big 12 Conference's "Player of the Year" his senior year while leading the Cowboys to the Final Four in 2004. On top of that, Allen finished his undergrad with a degree in education.
"That's what I had to do," Allen said, reflecting after Tuesday morning's shootaround prior to game 2 between the Thunder and Grizzlies. "Nothing was ever promised. I wasn't one of those guys who was big in the AAU circuit. I wasn't one of those guys who was highly ranked. I had to fight for everything I did. That's why I have the motto 'Grin and grind.'"
That motto and mindset has served Allen well over the course of his NBA career once the Boston Celtics drafted him 25th overall in 2004. Despite suffering a torn ACL which ended his 2006-2007 season early, Allen bounced back to contribute to the Celtics NBA Championship the following year. He's also a two-time selection to the NBA's "All-Defensive Team."
Just because this "late bloomer" has found long-term success over the course of his entire basketball career, it's not to suggest current OSU players like Marcus Smart, the national freshman player of the year (Wayman Tisdale Award) and reigning Big 12 POTY, should stay in school for four years.
Smart staying for his sophomore year was surprising enough to most experts and fans. But you won't hear Allen complain about seeing Smart, Le'Bryan Nash, and Markel Brown return for Stillwater for another season.
"That's big of them; gives them more time to work on their craft," Allen explained. "It probably gives them more time to move up in the [NBA] draft. It pretty much makes [OSU] a number one [preseason ranked team] for next year."
As for the present and the 2013 NBA Western Conference Semi-Finals, Allen believes this Memphis Grizzlies team shows at least one major characteristic shared with the 2008 NBA Champion Celtics -- willingness to sacrifice. He said every man on that roster was willing to give up whatever needed to win a series.
The Grizzlies are one win closer to doing that with a 99-93 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder Tuesday evening to send the 1-1 series back to Memphis Saturday. In that game 2, Allen finished with 12 points, 7 rebounds, and a game-high 5 steals.
It appears the "Grin and Grind" motto still translates into great defense.