Interview: Jazz’s Allen still adjusting to NBA life at NCAA tourney time

Former NCAA star Grayson Allen says the constant travel is among the differences in the NBA.

ATLANTA — March Madness.  During this time last year, Grayson Allen was one of the most important basketball players in the nation. He was the leader of the almighty Duke Blue Devils in his senior season.

On this night, the start of March Madness for 68 teams around the country, Allen was in the locker room getting his dinner after a game in which he didn’t even appear. He would watch the whole game from the bench. For reference, in the first game of NCAA Tournament last season he had 16 points and nine assists, and led the Blue Devils to a first-round victory.

Things aren’t as glamorous this season with the Utah Jazz as they were this time last year.

“It’s different because you’re not on the court,” Allen told Amico Hoops. “At the same time it’s not something that I haven’t been through in college. Just being in a different role and adjusting to your role.”

There are a lot of talented college players who make a name for themselves as an amateur, but never really cut it in the NBA. Jimmer Fredette, Adam Morrison, Christian Laettner, Anthony Bennett … the list could go on, but those are some of the biggest. However, it’s not always easy making the transition into the pros. There is a weird dynamic between an amazing college player, and an NBA prospect.

“For me this year’s all about learning,” Allen said. “Gaining whatever experience, whatever basketball wisdom, intelligence, IQ, whatever it is, whatever I can gain from watching and practicing to get better.”

Allen is 6-foot-5 and was the 21st overall pick in the NBA draft this last summer, but that hasn’t necessarily guaranteed him an opportunity. This season he has played just 9.4 minutes per game.

“I think the biggest adjustment for me has just been traveling,” he said. “And with going back and forth from the G League to here.”

The former college star has played in 11 G-League games, and put up a respectable 17.5 points per game.

”This week alone we’ve been to four different cities in four different days for four different games,” he said. “Getting adjusted to the travel, living inside of hotels pretty much the whole year, and getting used to what that does to your body is kinda what I’ve been adjusting too.”

The Jazz are in the thick of things in a tight playoff race in the Western Conference. They will be in the playoffs, with the only question being which seed they will get. They began the night as the fifth seed, but after a loss to the Atlanta Hawks they are now the seventh seed.