Sometimes, Chris Allen would overhear people in his new community talking about the Final Four, playing in it, seeing Iowa State reach that stage or just watching it live.
But the senior guard wouldn’t interrupt.
Instead, he’d just chuckle quietly.
By the time Allen reached Ames prior to the 2010-11 season, he’d played in two Final Fours with Michigan State. Everything that college basketball fans and players alike dreamed about, he’d experienced.
In Ames, Iowa, however, he was just a transfer seeking redemption and another chance to return to the pinnacle of college basketball. Few knew his background.
“The biggest difference was just being somewhere where you’re known and everybody knows you and loves you to coming to a new place where you have to earn and build your respect to have that same thing where you’re at,” Allen told ESPN.com. “Don’t nobody know who you are. So you have to build a name for yourself.”
Fred Hoiberg didn’t mask his recruiting philosophy when he took over the Cyclones program in the spring of 2010. Iowa State’s former star did not want to wait to win.
His targets: a variety of talented transfers who’d been labeled risks, based on the way they’d left their former programs.
Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo dismissed Allen after the 2009-10 season.
"It's been no secret that Chris Allen's been in a tenuous positions since the spring," Izzo said then in a statement about Allen’s dismissal. "There were multiple obligations that Chris had to meet in order to return for his senior season. While he did make progress ... he has failed to meet all the obligations and will not be part of our program this fall."
Hoiberg said he called Izzo before he recruited Allen. Izzo told Hoiberg that the Georgia native deserved another opportunity.
Based on the progress Allen has made thus far, Hoiberg said he’s happy with his decision to recruit him.
Allen, he said, is in the gym more than any player on his roster. His experience has also helped him and the team overcome some early struggles.
“It’s been great to see that hard work pay off,” Hoiberg said during the Big 12's media teleconference Monday.
Allen has been a valuable component for Hoiberg’s Cyclones, a squad that Joe Lunardi placed in the field of 68 in his latest bracketology report for ESPN.com.
Allen said he’s excited to compete for a program that’s trying to redeem itself.
“It was normal for us to get to the tournament [at Michigan State]. It was normal for us to get to the Final Four. It was normal for us to the get to the national championship game,” Allen said. “For me to come here and it not be normal, it kind of makes you hungry. That’s definitely something that I want to get here. .. I want to leave my mark. I want to be remembered.
Allen is averaging 12.3 ppg, shooting 82 percent from the charity stripe and 38 percent from beyond the arc for one of the most surprising success stories in the country. He scored 25 points in his team’s 69-46 victory over Texas A&M Saturday.
He’s blossomed off the floor, too.
The senior said he’s matured since his transfer to Iowa State.
And he tries to convey his mistakes to some of the team’s younger players in hopes that they’ll avoid them in the future. He certainly has a story to tell.
Few have experienced Allen’s ups-and-downs. In 2009, a pre-Final Four rally at a Detroit Mall unified the entire city. Allen and his teammates were serenaded by thousands of Spartans fans.
More than a year later, months after Michigan State had returned to the Final Four, he’d been kicked off the team.
Allen, however, said his dismissal induced growth.
“I feel like it’s a learning experience,” he said about the last two years of his collegiate career. “I feel like life is going to put a lot of adversity in your way. Either you fold under the adversity or you can build on it. And that’s what I’ve just been trying to do.”