Kentucky basketball: stay/go season starts with Askew, Allen coming back

Kentucky Wildcats guards Dontaie Allen and Devin Askew (credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports)
Kentucky Wildcats guards Dontaie Allen and Devin Askew (credit: Arden Barnes-USA TODAY Sports) /

Well now that March Madness is here and just because Kentucky basketball isn’t part of it in Indianapolis that doesn’t mean all is quiet in Lexington. That’s because it’s decision time for players to stay or go, and thus far two have made it clear they will be back in Rupp for the 2021-22 season.

Devin Askew’s father announced his freshman son is here for the long haul no matter how many years that is. Then today Dontaie Allen added his name to next season’s roster as well giving the Wildcats some needed veterans in the fold while we wait for others to decide.

It’s a monumental decision Wildcat players are weighing right now given the uncertainty as the pandemic is still with us, this past season was one most would rather forget, and after all they play for John Calipari who has the NBA train stop to pick up players in Lexington on the way to draft night and other global destinations year after year.

Devin Askew and Dontaie Allen will be back for Kentucky next season

You can’t imagine what is going through these young men’s heads on what is the right decision to make with agents and scouts talking in their ears while Big Blue Nation is equally pleading with them to stay.

It wasn’t the experience that they hoped their college career would kick off with.  Instead of 20,000 plus screaming Big Blue crazies it was more cardboard cutouts and a smattering of fans cheering them on. Not the experience Calipari sold them on, but even he had no idea what this past year would entail.

The only thing we know for sure is that Allen and Askew will be back along with newcomers Daimion Collins, Nolan Hickman, and Bryce Hopkins. They will join transfer Oscar Tshiebwe who left West Virginia after the Christmas break and had already been practicing with this year’s team.

Askew’s commitment to Kentucky undeniable

In reality, Askew would be a freshman coming in as well next fall, but he chose to reclassify and was thrust into the starting point guard position this year. He was just a baby who stepped into an unenviable role of learning Calipari’s system and trying to lead the team.

His father Brian Askew broke the news to KSR about his son’s return.

"“Yes sir, (Devin) is locked in for next season…….Dev is doing well. Sucks they lost but can’t dwell on it too long. Have to get back to work and get ready for next year.”"

He struggled mightily at times frustrating fans with turnovers and lack of scoring production, but give him credit as he never quit and kept learning and doing whatever his coach asked of him.

To say he was baptized by fire would be correct but that could pay big dividends for all the years he stays in Lexington. He never hung his head, absorbed everything the coaches told him, and in most player’s cases would have walked after Kentucky lost to Mississippi State in the opening round of the SEC Tournament.

He started 20 of the team’s 25 games and logged the third-most minutes at 722. He made 49 of 142 field goals including 15 of 54 on 3 point shots. He averaged 6.5 points per game, 2.6 rebounds to go with 73 assists, 26 steals but turned it over 50 times.

Allen poised to return despite strange rotation and minutes played

No one had more of a strange and seemingly frustrating year than Allen. The redshirt freshman from Pendleton County and former Kentucky Mr. Basketball traveled just down the road from Falmouth with a reputation of a big-time shooter and scorer.

Fans begged, pleaded, and voiced their displeasure of Allen not seeing the court early on and then sporadically at times throughout the year. While Kentucky was struggling through losing streaks and offensive scoring issues Calipari never gave a true reason for his playing or lack thereof minutes.

Allen’s return is welcome news of what he could be capable of in his sophomore year. Calipari has often praised the transition players like PJ Washington, Tyler Ulis, Willie Cauley Stein, and Nick Richards made from year one to year two. If he makes that big of a leap is up to him.

His mother April Allen-Thomas revealed to their hometown paper The Falmouth Outlook he most certainly will be back in blue and white.

"“He is definitely returning! His plan is to come home and work harder than ever before and return to UK for his sophomore season, and I fully support his decision.”"

He averaged 14 minutes a game hitting 31 of 78 three-point shots from his wing position.

He can be explosive – just ask Mississippi State who saw him light them up twice for 23 points this year including spearheading the UK comeback that just fell short in the season finale.

Allen hinted at the end of the game for fans to stick with the team in the future and then in the post-game press conference added his offseason plans.

"“I’m going to stay in the gym. Like I told you, the last month I’ve been in the gym. I’m feeling really good, really confident. I’m just going to stay in the gym literally all summer. I’m going to work to exhaustion.”"

That is two pieces of the puzzle to make their decisions known, well their parents did so. Who will be next? After some soul searching let’s hope a few others decide to find their way back to Bluegrass State this summer and fall.