Katy Allen makes most of golden opportunity

After Jess Knapp went down, the freshman seized her chance to start

· February 15, 2012, 12:53 am   ·  Updated February 16, 2012, 11:57 pm

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There have been only two players to start every Ivy League game for Penn women’s basketball this year.

One, sophomore Alyssa Baron, has been well known to Quakers fans for over a year. But the other, freshman Katy Allen, could soon become a familiar face as well.

Thrust into the starting lineup after senior Jess Knapp went down with a knee injury, Allen has grabbed hold of her opportunity and never let go.

“Obviously, no one wanted Jess to be hurt,” Allen said. “It was kind of a torn thing because I got more minutes, but I really wanted her to be out there.

“I took advantage of the opportunity, but really learned from [Knapp] and tried to — not fill her spot, because you can’t really fill her spot — but just learn from all the things that she had been doing,” she added.

Allen has played well enough to keep a starting job even after Knapp’s return, and the two players now start together in Penn’s frontcourt.

Coach Mike McLaughlin said the team tapped Allen for the starting role because of her consistency.

“You know what you’re going to get from her,” he said.

Allen is coming off the best performance of her young career, a 17-point effort against Dartmouth that earned her Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors. Through seven Ivy games, which encompass most of the second half of Penn’s season, only Baron has logged more minutes.

Allen never expected so much playing time in her first season, initially hoping to earn some minutes through her defense. But she has really flourished offensively, shooting 52 percent from the field and a lights-out 55 percent from beyond the arc in her last six games.

In conference play, Allen is second on the team, averaging 10.3 points, and tops in field-goal percentage.

One of the keys, Allen said, has been encouragement from her coaches and teammates to shoot the ball.

“In the beginning of the season, I’d pass up a lot of open shots, in practice even,” she said. She still wants to be more aggressive about pulling the trigger.

As her recent three-point barrage shows, Allen is always a threat from the perimeter. McLaughlin, however, wants to see her hit the gym over the summer to become an even bigger physical presence on the court.

“I think once she gets stronger, a lot of the other areas will all develop even better,” he said.

Allen has learned in practice everyday the importance of strength in her matchups with Knapp, whom she described as stronger, tougher and more physical.

“I’ve been learning to be more physical, because guarding each other in practice we have to be,” Allen said.

For good reason, McLaughlin has high hopes for Allen.

“I can see her being a future leader of this program,” he said, mentioning her as a potential captain down the road. “She leads by example. She leads by her work ethic. I do think that she’s someone that is going to be a bright part of our future here.”

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