What more can Kadeem Allen do? We'll find out - Tucson News Now

What more can Kadeem Allen do? We'll find out

Kadeem Allen is a driving force for Arizona (Photo courtesy Chris Hook/Arizona Athletics) Kadeem Allen is a driving force for Arizona (Photo courtesy Chris Hook/Arizona Athletics)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Kadeem Allen is playing three positions. He draws Arizona's toughest defensive assignment. He's played through an injury. He's already hit a game-winning shot this season.

He is, unquestionably, the Wildcats' leader.

Hey, Kadeem, can you also be our primary point guard?

Perhaps he can also perform a juggling act at halftime and sell popcorn during timeouts.

"He's already asked to do a lot," coach Sean Miller said.

Miller made that comment after Arizona's 85-63 victory over Texas Southern, an easy coast-to-coast victory that will be remembered only for the high-ankle ankle sprain suffered by point guard Parker Jackson-Cartwright, further diminishing a depleted roster at a most critical spot.

So, Miller and the Wildcats will ask Allen to do more.

"That's what we have to do," Miller said. "We have seven players."

And when you have only seven players, including two who can't play this season because of ACL injuries (Ray Smith, Talbott Denny), everybody is asked to do more with less.

"That's the thing when a guy gets hurt," Miller said. "You don't just miss him. You miss everything that he brought because roles now change for everybody."

For Allen, that means moving back to point guard, where he started most of last season.

His offseason conversations with Miller introduced a new role; really, a more comfortable role for Allen. He has been playing more off the ball this season -- shooting guard, small forward, whatever -- able to focus more on his defensive responsibilities while being the kind of free-flowing offensive player that made him such a high-scoring combo guard at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College. Parker Jackson-Cartwright, meanwhile, has been nicely filling the job of "pure point guard."

Until he collided with a Texas Southern player while playing defense and hurt his ankle.

Allen finished Wednesday night's game with 14 points, seven assists, six rebounds and just two turnovers.

"He had one of his best games, maybe at Arizona, considering all he did for us," Miller said.

Aw shucks, Coach.

"With me being the only senior on the team, I have to try to lead by example and try to lead the younger guys," Allen said. "I just try to go out there and play hard."

Arizona has three healthy, available scholarship guards ... at least until -- if -- sophomore guard Allonzo Trier is cleared to play from his eligibility issues. You get more minutes, and you get more minutes, and you get more minutes ...

Roles change. Allen has to play a lot more point. Freshman Kobi Simmons moves up into the backup point guard spot after showing explosive scoring ability as a 2-guard. Freshman Rawle Alkins will have to play the 2 and the 3.

Freshman 7-footer Lauri Markkanen, like Allen, can be asked to play three positions, needing to downshift to the small forward spot. Junior college transfer Keanu Pinder, 6-foot-9, will have to log time there, too.

To repeat Miller: "That's what we have to do. We have seven players."

At least the other six have someone to look up to.

"He's one of the best leaders that we've had," Miller said. "It's not just because he's a senior. He's not the most vocal player that we've had, but he does it because of his daily habits. Each of the players, if you asked them to talk about Kadeem, would tell you how much he loves to win. That's all he cares about."

Coaching a college basketball team through a long season is a daily battle of balancing chemistry and ego, regulating outside influences, managing individual agendas.

Miller has a wing-man in Allen.

"He's not moody," Miller said.

"One of the hardest things as a coach is if you have a moody player. Monday, life of the party. Tuesday, somebody stole their dog. Wednesday, back to being happy. ... It takes energy away from their teammates.

"Kadeem is just the same every day. He's always been that way. As his role has increased, I think that is one of the real keys to our team right now -- that we have a steady leader."

Allen, who missed nearly two games because of a knee sprain suffered against Michigan State, is averaging 8.2 points and 3.3 rebounds. Despite the injury, he hit a running layup off the glass to beat the Spartans. Last Friday night, though, he went just 3 of 7 from the line in a 69-65 loss to Butler.

"Nobody feels worse," Miller said.

"He takes responsibility for the good and the bad. He made the game-winning shot against Michigan State. He looked the same the next day when I saw him as he did after the Butler loss. That guidance he provides is really essential and nice to see."

With seven scholarship players right now -- and Jackson-Cartwright almost certainly out until the New Year -- Arizona's December could get rough, starting with a game vs. Gonzaga on Saturday in Los Angeles. That's OK. It's all about March.

By March, Arizona could be nine strong.

It might be a wild ride, but the Wildcats have a steady Allen to lead them.

"He's our only senior," Miller said. "He's playing with his heart."

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