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Hoops or football, Allen is enjoying it all

Bryant Allen may be a great athlete, but when it comes to making up his mind, he definitely has room for improvement.

The Maplewood-Richmond Heights senior is one of Missouri's best football players and is currently trying to lead the school's basketball team to a second consecutive state title. Talk to coaches and they'll tell you Allen is talented enough to play either sport at the Division I college level.
But when the time came to decide which game to pursue next year, Allen couldn't do it. So he chose both.

Rated the state's No. 2 football player in the ESPNU 150 and No. 5 basketball player in the ESPNU 100, Allen will take his 69 career touchdowns and 22.3 career points per game to Minnesota next year with a football scholarship in hand and an offer to walk on to the basketball team.

"I've been doing this my whole life," Allen says. "Playing both sports, that's what I do. I'm not the type of guy that's just going to quit one, so why stop now?"

Allen's coaches had a pretty good idea this scenario was possible when he arrived at Maplewood nearly four years ago. Though he was a skinny freshman, his speed wowed the football coaching staff and earned him a place on the varsity squad as a wide receiver.

"By the end of the first two-a-day, I knew he was going to be a player," football coach David Harris says.

When the incumbent quarterback suffered an injury during the preseason, Harris moved Allen under center and put the team in his hands. Allen worked hard to learn the offense from a new perspective. While it took some time to adjust to a position he had never played before, Allen eventually settled in and had a fine
season, throwing seven touchdown passes.

He hit the ground running when basketball season rolled around, starting at shooting guard all season and averaging 17.8 points per game. Allen took the reins early and led the Blue Devils to a 21-6 record. Like Harris, basketball coach Corey Frazier knew he was dealing with a special talent right away.

"Bryant had all the athleticism you could want, and he was a lights-out shooter," Frazier says. "I really had to change the offense to fit him, because he could get his own shot all day."

Allen made strides in both sports as a sophomore, throwing 15 touchdown
passes for the football team and scoring 23.6 points per game for the hoops team. But his real breakthrough came as a junior.

The arrival of a legitimate pocket passer at the school allowed Harris to move Allen back to receiver in 2007, and the results were dazzling. The shifty speedster caught 30 passes for 609 yards and 10 touchdowns, and he also carried the ball 72 times for 672 yards and 10 more scores.

The Blue Devils went 12-1 and made it to the state semifinals, but that was just the beginning for Allen. Once the football team was ousted from the playoffs, he joined the basketball team and averaged 25.1 points per game to lead the Blue Devils to a 28-4 record and the Class 3 state championship.

The title game in particular highlighted Allen's competitive drive. He helped Maplewood erase a 19-point deficit by scoring 25 points, and he hit the game-winning shot with four seconds left to give the Blue Devils their first state title.

"I can't remember seeing leadership like that," Frazier says. "Bryant put us on his back and carried us out of there."

His performances in both sports attracted heavy attention from college recruiters. Though most schools preferred him as a football player -- "He got offers from every conference in the country," Harris says -- Allen couldn't bear to give up his two-sport dream.

"I don't ever want to take the easy way out," Allen says. "People were saying how hard it would be to do both in college, but that's what I want. I want to be challenged. I like coaches that challenge me and get on me, and I know I could handle it."

Allen is determined to make it big in both sports. His senior season went according to plan on the gridiron, as he enjoyed one of the best offensive campaigns of any wideout in the country (1,005 receiving yards, 27 total TDs). He also returned kicks and played defensive back to help the Blue Devils again reach the state semifinals.

Basketball season, meanwhile, presented a new challenge for the senior. At 6-foot, 170 pounds, Allen will likely play point guard at Minnesota. To help get a jump on that transition, he ran the point for Maplewood this season.

In many ways, the situation mirrors his switch to quarterback as a freshman.

"A lot of it is about leadership," Allen says. "As a quarterback, you have to be willing to do anything to win, and you have to be a leader on the field. Point guard is a lot of the same things. Directing traffic, knowing the offense, reading defenses -- it's all similar."

His current coaches believe Allen has what it takes to make the dual-sport experience work in college.

"It's a short list of guys who have been able to compete in both sports at that level," Harris says. "It takes not only an exceptional athlete, but also an exceptional student and someone who is mentally prepared. Bryant has
all of that."

"He can play on Sundays in the NFL. I truly believe that," Frazier says. "And (in) basketball, he's talented enough and he's willing to work hard, and the coaches at Minnesota have been very accommodating to him. I think he's going to be successful."

No one who's seen his YouTube clips would disagree. In fact, Allen is even more talented than most people know.

"People forget that I run track, too," Allen says. "I won the 300 hurdles state title as a freshman."

Does Minnesota have an opening on the track team? Actually, let's not give Allen any ideas.

Mike Grimala covers high school sports for ESPN RISE.