Ray Allen ready to take his place in Basketball Hall of Fame

Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Ray Allen smiles after he was presented his Hall of Fame jacket by Naismith Hall of Fame President and CEO John Doleva during a news conference on Thursday in Springfield, Mass. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Ray Allen smiles after he was presented his Hall of Fame jacket by Naismith Hall of Fame President and CEO John Doleva during a news conference on Thursday in Springfield, Mass. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Ray Allen's basketball travels took him all over the world before arriving at his dream destination.

From Dalzell, S.C., where he starred at Hillcrest High School, to Springfield, Mass., where he'll be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame during Friday's Enshrinement Ceremony, Allen piled up the frequent scorer miles during his journey.

"Wow. Such an incredible, incredible feat," Allen said of his honor during the Jim Calhoun Celebrity Classic last month. "Just thinking about where I come from, everybody that's been a part of this journey for me, it's truly been an absolute honor.

"It's not something that I ever played for. I understood what it was, I understood who was in it and a part of it, but so many things had to happen before you can achieve something of this status. Just doing your job every single day, it's like the small things add up and the people keep you in line in that process.

"I feel humbled."

If not for a canceled flight, Storrs might not have been one of Allen's stops along the way. And maybe Allen doesn't become the greatest Husky in men's basketball program history.

Let's bring in Howie Dickenman, an assistant coach on Jim Calhoun's staff, to tell the story.

During Allen's senior year in high school, Dickenman headed out on the road on a fall recruiting trip. His plan: show recruit Kirk King that he was a priority by visiting him on the first day of the fall recruiting period.

Dickenman's flight made it as far as Nashville and then his connection was canceled.

To say the least, he was ticked off.

Dickenman did what any resourceful recruiter would do: He improvised. After spending the night in Nashville, he flew to Columbia, S.C., drove about 50 miles to Dalzell and arrived at Hillcrest without calling ahead. He introduced himself to James Smith, Allen's coach, and asked to set up a meeting with his star player.

"So he gets him out of class and we sit in an office that was square and we sit diagonally across from each other," Dickenman said. "He made eye-to-eye contact for the 30-minute talk and listened very closely. I said, 'We're recruiting you. And I could be anywhere recruiting a number of players, but I'm here the first day of recruiting for you because you're special.' "

Dickenman visited Allen two more times that fall to "show him some love," including on the last day of the recruiting period.

That first fateful meeting played a role in Allen eventually committing to UConn over Alabama and Kentucky.

"He said a number of reasons why he came to UConn," Dickenman said, "but one reason that he mentioned was,'well, UConn was there on the first day and I kind of appreciated that effort.'

"And I wasn't supposed to be there."

As Dickenman predicted, Allen turned out pretty special.

Allen dazzled UConn basketball fans during his collegiate career (1993-1996). He twice earned All-American honors and led the Huskies to three straight Big East regular season titles and three NCAA trips. He developed into an NBA lottery pick and went on to become a 10-time all-star and the NBA's all-time leader in three-point field goals, as well as helping the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat win world championships.

It all jump-started with Allen's decision to attend UConn.

"I just look at all the decisions that I had, the places I could have gone," Allen said of his college decision. "I just thank my lucky stars, because you never know. I still had the same mindset that I wanted to get better. I knew who coach (Calhoun) was, I knew who Kevin (Ollie) was, I knew who Donny (Marshall) was. All these guys that had mindset of sticking together and figuring out how to win. And they wanted to win. They wanted to work hard and we did it together.

"So, to me, it was such a no-brainer."

Allen's tireless dedication to his craft was behind his rise to greatness.

Dickenman, now retired, said Allen was the hardest worker that he's ever been associated with in his 39-year coaching career.

"His shooting goal was not to take 500 3-pointers, but to make 500 3-pointers," Dickenman said. "That says a lot about him. Why is he going to the Hall of Fame? Why is he the greatest shooter in NBA history? Well, that kind of answers the question. He was very persistent and very determined and always gave everything he had in practice."

Allen explained his approach to the game during his UConn years.

"Those days, I guess I never felt successful because I always felt I was trying to achieve something," Allen said. "And I was trying to get better no matter what I achieved, I was always trying to get to the next level."

Calhoun is thrilled that Allen will join him in the Hall of Fame. He called Allen a great athlete who made himself into a great shooter.

"I was down at the Final Four when the public announcement came and I spent some time with him there, and I couldn't be prouder or happier for him," Calhoun said. "More than well deserved. He's a phenomenal player and a phenomenal person."

Allen received his Hall of Fame jacket during a press conference on Thursday.

Friday also will be an emotional night for Calhoun and Dickenman. Both will attend the Enshrinement Ceremony.

Dickenman plans to tell Allen how proud he is of him.

"He's humble and a true gentleman," Dickenman said. "He's respectful to everyone in a time that some great athletes lack that character. He hasn't changed. He is who he is. ... He's really special."

g.keefe@theday.com

Basketball Hall of Fame inductees Ray Allen, left, and Maurice Cheeks laugh as they sit together during a news conference at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Thursday in Springfield, Mass. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)
Basketball Hall of Fame inductees Ray Allen, left, and Maurice Cheeks laugh as they sit together during a news conference at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Thursday in Springfield, Mass. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

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