LINCOLN — Thomas Allen doesn’t say much. He, like so many of his teammates, tries to let his play speak for itself.
So the sophomore guard was blunt after his first start in Nebraska’s exhibition Thursday.
“It’s been a long road,” Allen said. “Just working all that time, and now it’s here. Now I gotta seize the moment.”
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Allen might be Tim Miles’ highest profile recruit from high school. The 6-foot-1 guard from North Carolina had legitimate offers from North Carolina State, Ohio State and Kansas. The former four-star recruit is now the fifth wheel to Nebraska’s “Fab Four.”
But he might end up being one of the most important starters.
“I think he’s earned (the starting spot),” Miles said. “He fits the bill.”
Amid the stars like James Palmer and Isaiah Roby is Allen, whom Nebraska will rely on to be a sharpshooting guard to help spread the defense. In Miles’ best years, he said, he’s had good shooting teams. The problem is, those have been hard to come by at Nebraska. Never in Miles’ seven seasons have the Huskers shot better than 35 percent from deep. Their best was a season ago, when they shot 34.6 percent from behind the arc.
Nebraska’s not off to a strong start so far this season. The Huskers shot 4 for 26 from 3-point range in their exhibition win over Wayne State on Thursday. They weren’t much better in a scrimmage the week prior, just 3 for 25 from deep.
Miles acknowledged it’s a problem.
“I mean you can’t sit there and say 4 of 26 and say we’re fine,” he said.
To win this season, Nebraska has to shoot well, Miles said. That may be where Allen can earn his stripes.
At Brewster Academy in New Hampshire, Allen scored 16.9 points per game and shot 40 percent from the floor. In one game his senior season, he poured in 50, the highest single-game output on the team that year.
The sophomore shot 35 percent from 3 as a freshman, but played just nine minutes a game.
On Thursday, Allen scored nine points, shooting 2 for 7 from the field and 1 for 4 from 3 in 23 minutes of play. He also snagged seven boards and tied with Glynn Watson for a team-high five assists.
Allen dealt with some wrist soreness this fall but seems to be full-go for the season, which tips off Tuesday against Mississippi Valley State. Miles has joked he wished Allen had an alter ego, so he could break out of his shell. That, he said, is what’s keeping Allen from being great. His best game last season was against Kansas, when he hit 3 of 4 3-pointers and scored 13 points in 14 minutes.
“What that tells me is you can compete against the best, but how do you bring it every day?” Miles said before the season.
If Nebraska is going to have the year it wants, it needs to shoot well. That may start with Allen.
“Tom needs to keep stepping it up,” Miles said.