Early work paid off for Aztecs

Dakarai Allen

How was San Diego State able to steal Dakarai Allen from the Pac-12? Dakarai's father, Von Allen, explains why the four-star prospect is headed to San Diego.

On Dec. 27, 2011, the first full day of the Torrey Pines Holiday Classic in the San Diego area, San Diego State assistant coach Tony Bland showed up and watched Sacramento (Calif.) Sheldon take on Lakewood (Calif.) Mayfair.

The player Bland came to see, Sheldon's 2013 small forward Dakarai Allen, was terrific, scoring 13 points to go with 15 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

On the next day, Bland came back to Torrey Pines but this time brought his boss, San Diego State head coach Steve Fisher. With Sheldon taking on a local Lincoln squad with 2013 guard standouts Tyree and Tyrell Robinson, the timing was perfect.

Allen was a defensive force, totaling eight steals to go with his nine rebounds, 12 points and a half court buzzer-beating assist to win the game.

The decision was made. San Diego State knew it wanted Dakarai Allen. A scholarship was offered that day.

Fisher and Bland returned the next day to watch Allen again and from that point forward, never wavered. Allen was going to be the player San Diego State built its 2013 recruiting class around.

Schools such as UCLA and USC would eventually offer Allen scholarships, but by the time many Pac-12 schools had decided to go after Scout.com's 64th ranked 2013 prospect, he had built such a good relationship with Fisher, Bland and the rest of the SDSU staff, the decision to play for the Aztecs was easy.

The confidence that the San Diego State coaching staff showed in Allen from day one made all the difference in the world.

"Coach Fisher saw him play one time and offered him," said Dakarai's father, Von Allen. "They saw the value in Dakarai right away. Tony Bland did a great job building the relationship but more importantly he's a guy that really knows basketball and saw something in Dakarai that others didn't."

In SDSU's conversations with Dakarai and Von, the focus was on what Allen is, not what he isn't.

"A lot of people would focus on a negative, whereas Tony focused on the positive," Von said. "He knows that if Dakarai works on certain things, he'll be a professional. Tony always believed in him and knows he hasn't scratched the surface for how good he'll be."

It's well known that San Diego State is headed to the Big West for basketball, something that was reinforced to Dakarai and his father Von Allen throughout the recruitment.

While others put down San Diego State's future conference as the reason to choose their school instead, the SDSU coaches kept selling themselves.

"A lot of the other schools recruiting Dakarai kept talking about the Big West," Von said. "That was one of their biggest failures. They shouldn't have been focusing on that.

"Every other team talked about Dakarai as an athlete and as a defender. San Diego State is the only team that talked about him as a basketball player. Dakarai gets so agitated that everyone thinks he can't score, when in reality he will do whatever is necessary to help his team win the game.

"San Diego State saw that. It's all about winning there."

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