“Grindfather” tony Allen recalls his time at butler
by Charles Chaney
Tony Allen sauntered over to the media scrum awaiting his words at the University of Toronto’s Basketball Centre. He’s drenched in sweat and carried a familiar salty smell that anyone would recognize after an hour of hard pounding basketball practice.
Allen wipes his brow, takes a deep breath and hits the media with a “What’s happening, baby?”
“Butler isn’t like Chicago,” Allen says. “It’s a lot slower pace.”
Why does Tony Allen care about Butler Community College? Everyone who follows Allen’s career knows most of his history.
He’s a former drug dealer, turned dropout, turned barely graduated to NBA first team all-defense.
What most don’t know is where he was granted his first start: at Butler Community College.
“Man, I don’t ever forget Butler,” Allen says with a smile on his face. “I ate a lot of ice cream.”
He chuckled and peered to his right, imagining either the ice cream or his time at Butler.
“Before going to Butler, I had never even been on a plane or out of Chicago,” Allen says. “That was the first time I learned about the recruiting process.”
Allen had trouble in his neighborhood prior coming to Butler in 2000. If it wasn’t for Will Bynum, current NBA player for the Denver Nuggets, Allen would have never arrived in El Dorado.
“I remember asking him what he was doing for school,” Bynum says. “He wasn’t about school at the time. I talked him into coming to Crane [Prep] and the rest was history.”
“My grades were bad,” Allen says. “I didn’t think I’d ever go to college.”
Allen had been dealing drugs and didn’t go to school his freshman or sophomore years of high school. It wasn’t until his interaction with Bynum that everything changed.
“I didn’t start my junior year and it wasn’t until my senior year until things starting popping, you know?” Allen says.
That’s where James Peters comes in. Peters, who played for Butler, UNLV and many teams throughout the NBA Developmental League, says Allen had all the talent in the world. Anyone can see it; he just needed a little pushing.
“James was supposed to go the NBA, but because he was too old for high school ball that never panned out,” Allen says. “James said Butler would have a scholarship for me if I came down, so I did,” Allen says.
After playing in a scrimmage, former Butler head coach Dennis Helms told Allen he had a scholarship for him to sign.
“I owe so much to Coach Helms,” Allen says. “He and Butler taught me how to be a man.”
During his time at Butler, Allen shined. He was named the Jayhawk West Division Freshman of the Year and averaged 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds per game.
For Allen, his time at Butler wasn’t all roses. He was dismissed from the team following the 2000-01 season.
Allen would go on to Wabash Valley College (Ill.) and then to Oklahoma State University. At Oklahoma State, he’d be named the Big 12 Player of the Year and lead the Cowboys to the NCAA Final Four.
“Before Butler, I could barely read or write,” Allen says.
Known as the “Grindfather” throughout Memphis for coining the phrase “grit n’ grind,” Allen is a staple in any discussion for the NBA’s top defensive players. He’s busy giving fits to everyone from his high school buddy Bynum to the Most Valuable Players of Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
“I fooled around at Butler for real,” Allen says. “I don’t forget what I learned at Butler. My college degree, no Oklahoma State, no NBA. None of it would have ever happened if it wasn’t for the BCC.”