Where They At?
Catching up with the talented John “Tootie” Allen.
Last week’s edition of SI was the annual “Where Are They Now” issue. Amongst some of the players that they “found” this go-around was New Orleans native, Jonathan Bender. (Someone should let them know that we kinda “found” him first, about six months ago.) More to the point, the “WATN” issue is usually one of my favorites, and this year was no different. Except it was. Holding and reading it motivated me into action. After consulting with some colleagues, I searched out a few players that we agreed needed unearthing. What came of the conversations and research is a three-part series, covering three players currently at three very different stations. Of the three guys, you may remember one better than others, and one of the guys may have a more moving story than others. But of the three guys which you’ll read about in the next week, trust me, all have earned the digital ink.
Nicknames come and go in the hoops world quicker than an AI cross-over. Whether earned on cracked asphalt or in an air-conditioned gym, dudes have been called everything from “Booger” to “Tiny.” Usually the best AKA’s, though, are the ones bestowed at a young age. When I was a just a little one myself, “Blue” (as in Blue Edwards) and “Penny” (no last name needed) were my fav two. Time passed. My love of those names—like their owners’ skills—faded. That’s where this story starts: at a nickname.
Don’t get me wrong, the name is only as good as the game. And John “Tootie” Allen possesses both.
You can’t give yourself a name like “Tootie.” You have to earn it, and lest you be ridiculed, be able to back it up with some big game (or fists). Well Allen never had a choice. Given the name by his moms as a child, the nickname—one that could be embarrassing for a lesser man—stuck like a mouse on a glue trap. Now 26, and nearing 27, Allen is the oldest “Tootie” on the face of the hardwood.
Now if you have a Springfield (as in Mass.) like memory, John “Tootie” Allen should ring a bell in your head. Hell, he’s one of a handful of players never to lace up in the L to make multiple appearances in SLAM (Issues 51 and 75 if you’re keeping tabs).
When we first introduced you to Tootie, kid was killing it at Coatesville High. Yes, that Coatesville. Known best for its legend Richard “Rip” Hamilton, Tootie actually broke Rip’s scoring record in 2001, on the way to earning co-MVP at the 2001 EA Sports Roundball Classic.
A few years and 24 mags later, we filled you in on JA’s progress. No longer a high school star, Tootie was now a focal member of Louis Orr’s squad at Seton Hall. Playing alongside Andre Barrett (a former SLAM Diarist, and the man standing front and center in this pic, with Tootie on his right), John Allen made Jim Calhoun regret making him feel under-recruited by UConn (Allen feels that Calhoun assumed he’d be interested due to Rip’s time there). While he never won games like he would have liked at Seton Hall—or like he would have had he accepted scholarships from either Maryland, who won the NCAA Title his freshman year, Syracuse, who won it his sophomore year, or UConn, who won it all his junior year—Allen was more than satisfied with his tenure there, scoring almost 1,500 career points and winning national acclaim for his play.
That’s where SLAM, and most of “MSM”, left Tootie. Dead to the print world, Allen graduated in relative obscurity in ’05, failed to make an NBA roster that summer and left the public eye that is the Big East.
That’s where we’ll pick Tootie’s tale up—thousands of miles and an ocean away.
Dozens of dudes go overseas after college to ball; few, whether due to homesickness or the like, last there long. Four years, and four countries later, it’s fair to say Tootie’s lasted and excelled on the other side of the pond.
Most recently suiting up for Strasbourg, located in the northern region of France, Allen has also spent time playing in Finland, Germany and Israel. And while his numbers haven’t always been amazing—they’ve always been solid though—Allen has managed to play major minutes and parts on quality teams. And whether that’s because of his J, bball IQ, work ethic or amazing attitude, Tootie has experience an off season where some team didn’t offer pay to play. Actually that’s a bit of an understatement. Tootie gets a lot of love from teams throughout Asia and Europe. And while some just survive years playing overseas, collecting paychecks but abhorring the season, Tootie’s loved every minute of the experience. And that’s probably why he’s okay with not achieving his quest of reaching the League.
From the beaches in Tel Aviv, to the stunning gardens and palaces littered throughout Germany, to the friends (including TJ Parker, Tony’s brother) that he’s made, Allen has capitalized on his talent, seeing and experiencing lands, sites and languages that most citizens of Coatesville—hell, from anywhere in the U.S—will never, ever get to see or touch.
And while he’ll probably never suit up for an NBA team or even wind up in a national publication again, Allen has done well for himself, getting paid to play a game he loves.
Pretty good for a grown man still going by the name Tootie.