Grayson Allen’s return only adds to Duke’s loaded roster

DURHAM, N.C. — While he became the latest villain wearing a Duke uniform, Grayson Allen absorbed the verbal and online taunts that come with that, well, honor.

Within the Duke locker room, his teammates and coaches watched him struggling under the unwanted attention even though he’d brought much of it on himself by tripping opponents twice during February games.

A team meeting was held the first week of March. The main talking point was togetherness.

“Nobody wants to be hated,” Duke junior guard and team captain Matt Jones said that week. “But, in this game, it happens. So as teammates we have to do a better job of making sure that he doesn’t feel alone. Making sure that he knows he has guys who love him and have his back.”

One month later, Allen paid that support back in an important decision that affects his future and just how great Duke could be next season.

Rather than take advantage of new NCAA and NBA Draft guidelines that would have allowed him to enter the draft and get feedback from scouts before deciding whether or not to fully turn professional, Allen pledged the next year of his life to Duke and Duke alone.

“My decision was going to be all or nothing,” Allen said. “I was 100 percent sure in my decision to come back. I’m very confident that I made the right decision. For me I wanted to get to work on what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to take any time going that route if I wasn’t going to go that route.”

The 6-5 Allen emerged as one of the nation’s top scorers last season when he averaged 21.6 points per game to earn second-team All-American honors. Various NBA mock drafts had him pegged as a late first-round or early second-round pick, so Allen’s decision was much tougher than one-and-done teammate Brandon Ingram — who is in the running to be the No. 1 overall pick.

Still, Allen figured to be a perfect test case for the new rules. Perhaps, had he chosen to attend the NBA Combine or go through individual workouts, he could have impressed and moved up.

Instead, he’s focused on trying to win a second NCAA championship in three years at Duke as well as completing his degree in that same time period.

“I talked with my parents and prayed about this decision, and I had the feeling that it was right,” Allen said. “I love Duke and I’ve made relationships with my teammates that will last forever. Coming back next season to play with them is important to me. Earning a Duke degree has always been a dream of mine, so I’ll also be working to get closer to that goal.”

As for the bad actions that earned him so much negative attention? He admitted he has to change his ways and he intends to do so.

“This was probably the biggest year of growth for me,” Allen said. “Not only as a player but as a person as well. Over the course of the season I made some mistakes, and for me, thankfully, I was able to learn from some of those mistakes. I understand the responsibility that college basketball players have. But also being a college basketball player at Duke you have a big platform and a big stage. There are children and kids and players in high school that look up to college basketball players. So it’s very important to me to be a good role model on and off the court and set a good example.”

Now, with Allen in the lineup, Duke certainly has a team capable of…