- Andy Katz, ESPN Senior Writer
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- We don't have to unleash SportsNation to find out Tony Allen doesn't resonate with the general populous.
He might be the least known player of the year from a major conference.
So, who is Tony Allen, Oklahoma State's quiet, but assertive leading scorer?
"He's an extremely athletic and strong athletic driver who is hard to keep in front of you," Oklahoma State associate head coach Sean Sutton said. "People don't realize how good he is. But you don't end up being the Big 12 player of the year without being pretty good."
Allen was the Big 12's newcomer of the year last season after stints at two different junior colleges (Butler in Kansas and Wabash in Illinois). But his 14 points a game were usually earned a year ago in quiet fashion, much like his 23 Thursday night in the Sweet 16 win over Pittsburgh. With his third point against Saint Joseph's on Saturday in the East Rutherford Region final, Allen will have scored 1,000 in his brief two-year career at Oklahoma State.
"He's not talked about much because we weren't on TV as much," Sutton said. "But he's as good a wing player as there is in college basketball."
Allen is as unassuming as a star player could be on a Elite Eight team. Sutton said he tends to drift in the first few minutes of the game, but finds his focus as the game tightens. And, come the final two minutes of a game, Allen is usually on his game.
"I've got to work on that," Allen said. "It always seems like I wait for my coach to scream at me to get me going. I don't know why that is because I've got to stay more focused."
Allen's arrival as the Big 12 player of the year is quite an accomplishment. His OSU career could have been over before it started. The 6-foot-4 guard got into a "skirmish," the first week he was on campus last fall.
Eddie and Sean Sutton quickly snuffed out any other issues by telling Allen they wouldn't stand for any misbehaving. Allen said he snapped out of any funk right then and there and has been a model citizen, earning a 3.0 grade-point average and plenty of conference recognition on the court.
"I was blessed to get out of that situation," said Allen, who is from the West Side of Chicago. "I'm not looking to have a name (nationally). I know that everything I have I had to accomplish and earn. Nothing was given to me. I had to work for it all.
"My mother is proud of me and couldn't believe how much I've changed. I'm real focused. She was like, 'Wow you are really focused.'"
Allen, whose scoring went from 14 to 16.2 points a game this season, hasn't been bothered that every time Oklahoma State is discussed the attention shifts to point guard John Lucas. The Baylor transfer gets the headlines because his presence at the point helped elevate the Cowboys to a Big 12 champion. It also doesn't hurt that whenever an Oklahoma State game is on television, the cameras usually focus on either John Lucas on the court, or his father John Lucas in the stands.
"Tony keeps us all together," senior Ivan McFarlin said. "He's the most aggressive player in the NCAAs. He reminds me of Ben Gordon. They're both aggressive and have a crossover dribble. He can go to the hole strong."
Allen is considered one of the toughest players to defend one-on-one because of his strength. He's not a great outside shooter, making only 29.6 percent of his 3s. But he gets to the basket and makes shots when it matters most.
And, while he might not be a household name, without him the Cowboys aren't in the Elite Eight.
Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.
The Big 12's player of the year doesn't mind going unnoticed, as long as OSU is winning.