LINCOLN — In the fall of 2019, nobody wanted much to do with Teddy Allen.
He’d been kicked out of Wichita State one year after leaving West Virginia, on his third school in three years at Western Nebraska Community College. Despite big numbers — 38 points in Game 1, 33 points in Game 2 — he’d been labeled a troublemaker. Not worth the risk.
Nebraska took a chance anyway, flying to Scottsbluff for a visit. They brought Allen onto campus a few months later. The 6-foot-5, 235-pound wing and former Boys Town star committed in December, adding a pivotal piece to the 2020-21 roster.
Initially, Hoiberg and his staff took some heat for the decision. This week was the first time Hoiberg was able to talk about recruiting Allen, who signed Wednesday. The coach stood by his decision Thursday.
“We talked to a lot of people that have been in Teddy’s life, including the coaches that he played for,” Hoiberg said on a conference call with reporters. “We’re very comfortable taking on Teddy, especially with the conversations that we had with him all the way back to when we first went out to see him in Scottsbluff.”
Three months before Teddy's last chance begins, he is trying to change, because he stands to lose everything if he doesn't.
Allen was the 2017 Nebraska Gatorade player of the year at Boys Town and played one season at West Virginia for Bob Huggins. He appeared in 35 games as a freshman, including three in the NCAA tournament, averaging seven points per game. When Big 12 play began, he scored 15, 22 and 20 in consecutive wins that led to a top-five AP ranking.
But benchings the next two games against Baylor and Texas Tech led to a screaming match in the locker room between Allen and an assistant. He left for Wichita State to play for Gregg Marshall after the season, was denied a waiver to play immediately and sat for one year.
But in the summer before he was slated to play, Allen got in an early-morning argument with his then-girlfriend. During the argument, Allen broke his girlfriend’s cellphone and was charged with criminal damage to property and petty theft. City ordinance in Wichita considers damage of a significant other’s property domestic violence, as does a state statute in Kansas. Nebraska state statute does not consider crime against property domestic violence.
“If this was in Nebraska, this would just be damage to property and would have no mention of domestic violence,” Teddy’s defense attorney, Matthew Olson, told The World-Herald in February.
“I know what I am,” Allen added in an interview in February. “And I know what I didn’t do.”
Allen was kicked off the team by the Wichita State athletic director and found a new place to play at Western Nebraska Community College.
The reverberations of that incident were just settling as Hoiberg made first contact with Allen. Since then, he’s heard nothing but positive reports.
“One strength coach sent us an email unsolicited saying that he’s his favorite athlete he’s worked with of all time,” Hoiberg said. “Talking with Coach Cory (Fehringer at Western Nebraska), he didn’t have one issue with him this year and said he was phenomenal as far as everything that he did with the players and in the community.”
Allen is one of five players in the 2020 recruiting class, which Hoiberg thinks could change a program that went 7-25 last season and lost 17 straight games. Allen gives Nebraska a unique scoring option at the wing, and his solid frame fits into the Big Ten. Last year, NU wings were often tossed around on defense and too small to finish in the lane.
Allen led all junior college players with 31 points per game, making 51% of all his shots, a good portion of those coming from drives to the rim. He also made 37.1% of his 3-pointers.
“He’s an 88% free-throw shooter, which I know was music to all our ears,” Hoiberg said.
Nebraska finished 348th in free-throw percentage last season.
“For a volume scorer and a volume shooter to have those percentages,” Hoiberg said, “those are phenomenal, phenomenal numbers. And he’s been great, as far as everything we’re asking of him and we’re excited to get him on campus.”
On Twitter this week, Allen said it felt like he was committing to his home school.
“Coach Hoiberg and all them were able to like, see who I really am,” Allen told the World-Herald in February. “I love Coach Cory and (assistant) Coach Billy (Engel), everyone (at Western Nebraska), they’re all good to me, all the teachers and everything, I love it. But once I’m done with that, it’s gonna be like I’m at zero again.”