As I waited for Maryland guard Seth Allen to return from a broken bone in his left foot suffered during the preseason, I thought about last season’s Duke game at Comcast Center.
It wasn’t just that the then-freshman had hit the game-winning free throws against the Blue Devils with 2.8 seconds left. It was that he scored all of his 16 points in the second half.
Allen – whose absence coincided with some trying times for his teammates – is a charismatic athlete who can score in bursts.
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He demonstrated that when he entered early against Tulsa on Sunday night -- his first appearance of the season after 12 games – and quickly scored nine first-half points. He had a smile on his face as he jogged off the court with his teammates at halftime of Maryland’s desperately-needed 85-74 victory.
Allen, who played point guard, came off the bench and finished with 15 points on 4 for 10 from the floor. He had three assists.
Allen isn't completely in game shape. But coach Mark Turgeon couldn’t resist starting him in the second half.
"Seth Allen did what Seth Allen does and got us going," Turgeon said. "Really got us going –- makes everyone better. More importantly, he gives us depth."
Unlike pro franchises, college teams can’t scan the waiver wire for help when they sustain injuries. Allen’s return fills a gap for a Terps team worried about wearing down its best players with too many minutes on the floor. His presence means the Terps can bring freshman point guard Roddy Peters along at a more appropriate pace. The Terps still need more from their post players – they gave freshman Damonte Dodd his first career start Sunday night – but that’s another story.
Turgeon said Allen won't play exclusively at the point. He will also play off the ball with Peters occasionally at the "1."
"I think as the season goes along you’ll see those two play together more," Turgeon said.
Allen is a quick healer, and he has experience at handling recoveries. He still has two plates and 24 screws to stabilize his left elbow – the remnants of a 2007 bicycle accident. A 7-inch scar winds its way down the underside of his forearm and across his elbow. He can’t extend his left arm as far as his right.
He also broke his left hand his senior year of high school. Then came the broken foot bone sustained during a late-October practice before this season began.
“It was devastating when I went down,” Allen said.
Turgeon concurred: “He was playing at an unbelievably high level when he got hurt."
Allen charted out eight weeks on his phone – the estimated recovery time. His first game came between the eight-week and nine-week point after being cleared Friday.
He doesn’t show effects of his injuries. Fans may not realize that Allen is naturally right-handed. He eats and writes with his right hand and kicks a soccer ball right-footed. But he shoots a basketball with his left hand.
Allen entered Sunday with 15:46 left in the first half and played point guard immediately. He got fouled on his first shot attempt – a drive to the basket – and made one of two from the line. He missed his next two shots but converted his next three attempts. His deep 3-pointer tied the score at 35.
He said he will remember the ovation he got from the crowd when he first entered the game. But he said: "It made me nervous becaise I just felt like there were big expectations."