It’s hard to get John Thompson Jr. to give statements anymore. Although he always sits in the interview room after Georgetown games to listen in on the press conference, he is not there to talk to reporters. So when I approached him to ask him a few questions for this story, he brushed me off at first, saying, “I don’t do interviews.”

“It’s not about the game,” I said. “It’s about Anthony Allen.”

Once I mentioned the name of one of his former players, Thompson stopped, looked at me and deadpanned, “What do you want to know about him? He’s a pain in the ass.”

That was, of course, a joke, but when he later described Allen as a “damn decent man,” it was clear that he meant it in the best possible way.

“He was a guy that was just a good guy that you liked having around, and that was very important to me,” Thompson said.

Anthony Allen (CAS ’90) played basketball under Thompson in the late ’80s, but to Georgetown students he is better known as Officer Allen, or just “O.A.” Allen joined the Department of Public Safety in 1994, and for years he had the night beat for the northern part of campus. He has had to break up many a party in his day – he remembers one in particular in which a group of students spread sand all over their floors to decorate their apartment for a beach-themed party. For the most part, though, Allen is known as a laid-back guy who loves movies and Gospel music.

But way back before most current students were born, during the days when Georgetown first became a household name, Allen was a top high school recruit from Port Arthur, Texas. His basketball career would lead him to France, Mexico and Australia before he settled back down in the District.

PORT ARTHUR, TEXAS, is an oil town on the Gulf of Mexico that is about as far east as you can go before you hit Louisiana. There are two big sports high schools in the town of 57,700. If you played football – like Allen’s two older brothers did – you went to Thomas Jefferson, which produced the likes of NFL coach Jimmy Johnson. If you played basketball, you went to Lincoln High School. During Allen’s years at Lincoln, the school won two state championships – and if you ask him, they got robbed from the title his senior year.

Although Allen’s brothers were football players, basketball was the family’s real passion. All of the men on his father’s side played basketball in college, and his uncle Edmond Lawrence played in the NBA and later for the Harlem Globetrotters. Allen remembers watching TV to see another one of his uncles play for San Antonio, and he has another cousin who went on to play for the Globetrotters. Allen’s little sister Tanya caught the Basketball Jones, too, playing college ball at the University of Texas.

During his senior year, Allen was a Dapper Dan all-American and a Texas all-star, but he almost missed his chance at playing for Georgetown due to a freak injury. The first time a Georgetown recruiter traveled to Port Arthur to see him, Allen twisted his ankle on the first play and sat on the bench for the rest of the game. His coach, however, had never told him that a recruiter was in the house.

“I was kind of mad at coach,” Allen said. “He could’ve just wrapped up my ankle!”

Thompson did come back though, along with his assistant Craig Esherick (GSB ’78, LAW ’82), after seeing Allen on tape.

Allen did not commit to Georgetown until late in his senior year because the team did not start recruiting him until after the Dapper Dan exhibition game. When it came time for him to make the decision, he thought of a deal that was sure to impress his teammates.

“I told [Georgetown], `I have a sports banquet. If you get Coach Thompson to speak at the sports banquet, I’ll sign on the dotted line,'” Allen remembered. “That’s when I found out he’s a brilliant orator. But he meant business. I could tell when he switched from talking to everybody else to talking to me.”

Allen had been highly regarded coming out of high school, but his time on the floor at Georgetown was limited. He only averaged 8.54 minutes, 2.3 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.

Although he was naturally a forward, Allen took his chances when he got them, playing almost every position except for point guard. He became the go-to guy for blocking shots during his first two seasons.

“Anthony was a smart player, you know,” Thompson Jr. said. “He was competitive, and he was the kind of guy that was a very good defensive player, and a lot of the things we tried to do predicated on a person being a team player as well as a person who could rebound and defend. Anthony could do those things, and that was very important.”

For Allen, however, the change from being an offensive player to a strictly defensive player was based on a much simpler idea: That’s how he would get into the game.

New York Times sports columnist George Vecsey took notice of the way that Allen and his teammates approached their limited roles, writing, “There is never any staring out into space, no pouting, no `Put me in, Coach’ looks.

“Allen is a 6-foot-7-inch freshman from Port Arthur, Tex., a high-school all-American who knew what he was doing when he chose Georgetown. Unless he became a Patrick Ewing or a Reggie Williams, he was going to be part of the swarm,” Vecsey continued. “Yesterday he sat for 33 minutes 18 seconds, until Thompson sent him in. Then he plunked in his only shot, grabbed a rebound, blocked two shots and helped Georgetown hold on to its lead.”

The column was published on March 9, 1987, the day after Georgetown defeated Boston College in the first round of the Big East Tournament. Georgetown went on to beat Providence and Syracuse to win the tournament title. Providence, however, got the last laugh, as the Friars eventually beat the Hoyas 88-73 in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

“I knew that if they tried to shoot outside that we would beat them, so they were gonna come inside,” Allen remembered. “Sure enough, they came inside.”

The following season was a disappointment for the Hoyas. Georgetown got bounced from the Big East Tournament in the first round, losing by three to Seton Hall, and the Hoyas were in the unenviable position of playing then-No. 1 Temple in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, when they were sent home.

A new era for the Hoyas started with the 1988-89 season, when the twin towers of Alonzo Mourning (CAS ’92) and Dikembe Mutombo (FLL ’91) joined the team. For Allen, though, their presence made it even harder for him to get into the game.

“We’d have some tough practices,” Allen said. “They were extremely tough. We practiced like we played.”

Off the court, though, Allen remembers Mutombo as being the funny guy on the team.

“He was just a character,” Allen said. “He had a good sense of humor, and he was a very smart student.”

ourning, on the other hand, was the quiet one.

“He kept pretty much to himself,” Allen said. “He was always focusing on his game.”

With Mourning and Mutombo, the Hoyas finished atop the Big East in the regular season standings and at the league tournament and again made it to the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament. The Elite Eight, however, would be the farthest that any of Allen’s teams would advance. His senior year, Georgetown again got derailed in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Allen’s basketball career allowed him to pursue another one of his passions – traveling. After college, Allen signed on to an American exhibition team that played university and semi-pro teams in France. He was based in Paris, but the team’s schedule took him to every nook and cranny of the country.

Allen had been playing in France for three years when he was asked by a group called Athletes in Action to join their program. Athletes in Action is a Christian group that sends exhibition teams all over the world, and during halftime the players minister to the crowd. With Athletes in Action, Allen spent about two years playing in Mexico and Australia.

Working in the Christian sports ministry left a deep impact on Allen. Instead of going to law school on his return to Washington, like he had initially planned, he decided to enroll in seminary instead. Today, Allen works with the youth ministry at a Baptist church in Northeast D.C. He has also been the choir director at Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School.

“Have you ever heard him sing?” Thompson asked me. “He should go on – what’s that show called? – `Singing with the Stars,'” Thompson joked, inadvertently showing his age.

NO MATTER WHERE he has gone, though, the most important thing to Allen has always been family. It’s a principle that was instilled in him early on during his childhood in Texas, and it’s the reason why he has stuck around on the Hilltop for all these years.

The sense of family is something that the Hoyas’ current players recognize, too. Senior center Roy Hibbert has often talked about how pick-up games with Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85) and Mourning influenced his decision to come to Georgetown.

Senior forward Patrick Ewing Jr. said that he remembers Allen from being around his father.

“It’s good to see that he’s still around and talks to us a lot,” Ewing Jr. said.

Allen still keeps up with Mark Tillmon (CAS ’90), who roomed with him in the Sleepy Hollow corner of New South freshman year, and Dwayne Bryant (GSB ’90), who, as a native of New Orleans, shared a Southern connection with Allen. Even the players who have since become famous remember their friends from Georgetown, as Allen nonchalantly mentioned that Mourning had called him the other day.

The Georgetown family was particularly important to Allen after his wife passed away last summer, to cancer. Several of his former teammates attended her funeral, and many students and alumni who knew Allen from DPS reached out to him.

These days, Allen’s two young children are keeping him busy with their endless supply of energy. His seven-year-old son A.J. (short for Anthony Jr.) got to tag along to the 100 Years of Georgetown Basketball gala last year and wowed the crowd by chanting “Let’s go Hoyas!” at the top of his lungs.

Allen sometimes plays a little basketball against his son while his five-year-old daughter Aniyah cheers “Go Daddy go!” from the sidelines, but A.J. has some growing to do before he can dunk on his dad. But with Allen’s many connections here, little A.J. can already consider himself part of the Georgetown family, too.

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