When Kadeem Allen decided to transfer to the University of Arizona, it was assumed that the Arizona Wildcats would be getting a dynamic scoring guard. After all, Allen had averaged nearly 26 points per game at Hutchinson Community College, set a school single-season record with 13 30+-scoring games, and was named as the National Junior College Player of the Year.
So far, Allen has not been the player Arizona has expected him to be. He's averaging just 7.5 points per game while playing over 20 minutes per game -- though he is shooting 57.4% from the field.
But that doesn't mean he hasn't been effective. Allen was projected to be a combo guard, but he has done a phenomenal job of taking on a true point guard role for Arizona, even if it means he's scoring less.
"Kadeem is a scoring point guard, and he's not doing a lot of that right now because he's trying to get the team involved, so give a lot of credit to him," Gabe York said of his teammate. "That's not who he is, and he's done a great job to adapt to that starting point guard role."
Allen leads the team in assists, averaging 4.8 per game, and has an outstanding assist percentage -- an estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals a player assisted while he was on the floor -- of 45.5%. For reference, T.J. McConnell's AST% last season was 39%.
Equally as impressive is how well Allen is taking care of the ball. He has posted an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.8 to 1 through four games.
"As we talk about everyday in practice, I just want to make my teammates better, make the defenders come to me, and give up the ball to my teammates," Allen told the Pac-12 Network.
Of course, as the year goes on, the competition will only get tougher. Maybe his passing ability will prove to be a fluke against better opponents, but Allen says it just comes naturally to him.
"It’s just an instinct," Allen said after the opening night win against Pacific
. "Point guard has always been my second option, knowing how to the pass the ball, and get my teammates involved, and scoring [makes] it all comes together, but passing the ball is an instinct."
Despite Allen's proficiency as a faciliator, Sean Miller still understandably wants to unlock some of the scoring potential that Allen demonstrated in junior college. One way Miller has tried to do that is by playing Allen and Parker Jackson-Cartwright together, which would mean possibly sliding Allen to the 3.
"Kadeem was recruited here to play more than one position, and that’s how we’re going to do it," Miller said. "He’s going to continue to get more time off the ball, where Parker and him can be in together."
Not only will that let Allen to focus on scoring, it will put his defensive ability -- arguably his best attribute -- to better use.
"There is going to be value moving forward in getting Kadeem in as the third guard, because Kadeem brings things to the table defensively that not a lot guys on our team can do," Miller said. "And I don’t mean guarding the other team’s point guard… he’s going to be that player that guards the other team’s best player."
Allen has been the team's best perimeter defender this season. He guards multiple positions, uses his lateral quickness and 6-9 wingspan to stifle opponents, and has shown a knack for creating turnovers, as he has a team-high seven steals.
With that defensive prowess and the distributing ability he's shown, he's proving to be a worthy replacement of T.J. McConnell. Now, if Allen can start to up his scoring totals, well, he could be even better than McConnell.
Part of the reason Allen has been so successful was the decision to redshirt last year and learn from T.J.. He originally wasn't a fan of having to sit out, but he'd now be the first to admit that it was the right decision.
"At the beginning, I was a little frustrated and shocked really, because I had to sit out of games of what I really love to do," Allen told AZ Desert Swarm at media day.
"The biggest benefit for me redshirting last year was being able to learn the system," he added. "Being able to see the atmosphere on the road, learning all the plays, getting stronger in the weight room. Really learning what it takes to be a great player in the Arizona program."
The goal was always to put both him and the program in a better situation moving forward and it has done just that.
"I wasn't really looking at the big picture then," said Allen of his redshirt season. "But now when you look at the big picture, everything is how I really wanted it to be when I first came in."