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Allen’s Work Ethic Makes Him a Top-notch Panther FHS Co-captain Starts at Point Guard

Justin Allen has worked long hours to sharpen his shooting skills.

Staff Sports Writer
Justin Allen’s insatiable work ethic is an attribute that not only defines him, but it also has become a key that’s opening doors. That trait is a major plus for him in basketball and also in the classroom, where he’s an honor student with a 3.8 GPA. 
The Franklin High senior, who hardly played his sophomore year, is now a co-captain and the Panthers’ starting point guard. Coach C.J. Neely calls Allen “special in so many ways.’’
“Justin has earned everything through hard work,’’ Neely emphasized. “He’s become our best shooter, he’s a captain who leads by example, and he’s unselfish and supportive. Justin also has spent time at camps and gets involved in community service. If a teammate needs a ride, Justin provides it.’’
Neely definitely likes what Allen brings to the basketball table. “He’s improved so much. He’s got a high basketball IQ, he’s instinctive, he’s overcome adversity, and knows how to stretch the floor with his shot. He’s worked while he’s waited.’’
The 5-foot-11 Allen had the option to star for the jayvees as a sophomore or be on the varsity — not to play but to learn and observe. He chose limited to no playing time on the varsity.
“That was the best decision I ever made,’’ Allen offered. “I learned from players who were older, several were Hockomock League all-stars, and I learned the system from Coach Neely. I grew with the older players and got valuable advice from them and the coach.’’
Allen started his junior year as a combo guard — at the point and on the wing. His final statistics weren’t eye-popping, but there were signs that Allen could handle the point-guard role and become the quarterback on offense.
His points per game average was a meager 5.5, but there were encounters where he scored 11 against Mansfield, 12 against Oliver Ames and 16 against Milford. His three-point shooting clip, however, was an impressive 40 percent. But there were times he was willing to pass up good shots. That changed when the Worcester City Tournament arrived at the end of the regular season. That competition provided proof that Allen had arrived.
The Franklin native scored 12 of his 14 points in the fourth quarter to give the Panthers a hard-fought 41-39 triumph over Worcester North. He also connected on three three-pointers.
“We beat Burncoat and Leominster, then won the title in a back-and-forth game where the defenses created poor shooting’’ Allen said. “That game was my best and I was pleased I could propel my team to the championship.’’
With Allen controlling the point, Franklin went 20-3 overall then split a pair of games in the state tourney, ending the season with a 21-4 record.
This year, Allen has set goals that are lofty, but he believes, “they’re attainable.’’
“My team goals are to win the Kelley-Rex Division title and be the best team in the league,’’ he said. “Then, after we qualify for the tourney, I want us to compete for and win the state championship. My individual goals are to be the best captain I can be, become a league all-star and shoot threes at 40 percent or higher … We’ve got 10 returning players who are hungry to win,’’ he emphasized. “And for me to attain my individual goals means I must impact winning.’’

Franklin will open its season on Dec. 13 at Oliver Ames.
The 18-year-old Allen, who started playing basketball when he was seven, truly embraces his role at point guard. 
“I like the responsibility,’’ he said. “I like controlling the pace of a game, and I’m comfortable with the ball in my hands. The key to success is to take care of the ball and limit turnovers. Being instinctive and having good court vision are very important in being able to direct my teammates. Staying one step ahead of the defense is crucial.’’ 
Quick to credit others, Allen has high praise for his teammates, especially co-captain Ben Harvey, junior combo guard Henry DiGorgio and junior forward-center Sean O’Leary. Neely gets high marks, too. “Coach Neely is an excellent motivator who works long hours,’’ Allen noted. “His practices are organized, he’s super positive and reminds us to act how you want to be remembered.‘’
Calling his parents (Shawn and Marissa) role models for their support and encouragement, Allen relies on an athletic philosophy that stresses winning, but he’s also acutely aware that reaching his potential and enjoying his sport are essential. 
“I put a high priority on winning, but losing can teach an athlete how to adjust,’’ he said. “Life lessons that can be learned through sports are overcoming adversity, how to develop a strong work ethic, how to be a good teammate and leader, and how to be resilient.’’
Allen, who hasn’t decided on a college or a major, hopes to continue his basketball career at a Division 3 school. “I think Justin can achieve that goal,’’ Neely said. “Recruiters like taller guards but his shooting will draw attention, and his willingness to adapt to pressure situations is a big plus. Justin has developed confidence.’’
Once timid taking shots, Allen, a fan of Isaiah Thomas, now is a threat offensively and that should help him become more proficient getting assists. “Improving on offense will draw opponents to me and that will hopefully lead to making good passes for assists,’’ he said.
Justin Allen top thrill in sports was winning Most Improved Player last year. “That said a lot about my work ethic. All the hours of work paid off,” said Allen.
Indeed they did.