'Candy Man' | Basketball great Ray Allen talks Hillcrest state title, career, hall of fame inductions

By DENNIS BRUNSON
dennis@theitem.com
Posted 5/17/18

COLUMBIA - While going through interview sessions for his induction into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame on Monday, Ray Allen was asked how often he was called "Jesus.

"Every day," Allen said in response to Jesus Shuttlesworth, the …

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'Candy Man' | Basketball great Ray Allen talks Hillcrest state title, career, hall of fame inductions

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COLUMBIA - While going through interview sessions for his induction into the South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame on Monday, Ray Allen was asked how often he was called "Jesus.

"Every day," Allen said in response to Jesus Shuttlesworth, the character he played in Spike Lee's 1998 movie "He Got Game."

When asked how long it had been since someone called him "Candy Man," Allen responded, "it's been a while. I know if I heard that I know I need to look around because it's someone from Hillcrest."

That nickname was given to the now 42-year-old Allen as he grew up playing for Hillcrest High School in Dalzell. And before he was the Big East Conference Player of the Year at Connecticut and before he was a major cog in leading the Boston Celtics and the Miami Heat to titles, he helped lead the Wildcats to the 1993 4A state title.

"That was the first thing that I ever really won," Allen said. "So to talk about the guys that we won with, like we grew up together. From the eighth grade on, we played B team; by the time we get to the 12th grade, we were a group of guys, we knew each other.

One of the best things we did was we played Mars Hill team camp, Presbyterian College team camp and Clemson team camp. So we were always around each other and played a lot of basketball. It basically was a culmination of a program that stayed together at a young age to senior year in high school. It paid off for us."

What sticks out to Allen about the run to the title win over Byrnes is the games having to be moved from Hillcrest's small gymnasium to Morris College's Garrick-Boykin Human Development Center.

"It was a whole exciting time playing at Morris College," he said. "Because the games had gotten so big, we had to move them.

"Just moving the games there, if I had the right mind I would have been nervous because I knew more people wanted to see the games, sell more tickets," said Allen, who tried to get in the Hillcrest gymnasium on Sunday, but to no avail. "But I just knew I'm a player, it never dawned on me to think about it."

One thing that Allen regrets is that he and his teammates didn't revel in the state title as much as they should have.

"I think for certain we took it for granted," said Allen, who credited head coach James Smith for leading him and his teammates to the crown. "I don't think we celebrated it enough.

"We kind of came out of nowhere. We were 4A, but we were a small 4A. Nobody really expected us to to do that."

Allen pointed out that this was the first hall of fame to which he was inducted. However, there is another one coming to him in September -- the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Allen was selected for induction in his first year of eligibility. However, it was not something to which he aspired.

"It's not like you shoot for that," he said. "There's so many other boxes you've got to check off first to be eligible for that award, that ability to be accepted. I don't know how many kids dream about being in the hall of fame. You dream about doing other things and then on the way you think about I could be in the hall of fame."

Allen said the recognition is about far more than just him.

"Once there's this conversation about me being nominated as a hall of famer, I don't have to say it, I don't have to toot my own horn, I don't have to hold my statistics up against somebody else. I've done everything I think that I can do, and I let my actions speak for themselves. After that I'll just be grateful, but at the same time it's the celebration of the people who got me to this point, the people who fought for me and believed in me."

Allen's statistics do speak for themselves.

He was a two-time All-American at UConn and the Big East Player of the Year in 1995-96. A two-time First-Team All-Conference selection, Allen was USA Basketball's Athlete of the Year in 1995.

In three years at UConn, he scored 1,922 points, still No. 5 on the all-time list. The Huskies had an overall record of 89-13, a Big East Conference record of 49-5, with three Big East regular-season championships and a Big East Tournament Championship, three NCAA appearances that resulted in two appearances in the Sweet 16, and one to the Elite Eight.

Allen, a 10-time All-Star, is the most prolific 3-point shooter in NBA history and a 2-time league champion.

Allen is the NBA's all-time leader in career 3-point field goals made in both the regular and postseason and is one of the most accurate 3-point and free throw shooters in NBA history. He won championships in 2008 with Boston and in '13 with Miami.

He averaged 18.9 points per game for his career in 1,300 games.

Allen said his ascension up the basketball ladder happened because of hard work to prove himself at each level.

"I always had the mentality to figure out how to improve, how to get better," he said. "At no point did I think I was good enough. It was a constant source of heartache because I knew where I was at that moment wasn't good enough.

"So there was a constant search, thirst to improve. So while someone's telling me I'm great, I'm like, 'Yeah, yeah, I've got things I've got to get better at.' "

Allen made 2,973 3-pointers in regular-season games, but that doesn't even count the one that was his most unforgettable, coming in the postseason.

His 3-pointer from the right corner with 5.2 seconds left in Game 6 of the '13 NBA Finals for Miami sent the Heat to overtime against the Spurs in a win-or-else game, and helped them go on to win the title in seven games.

Chris Bosh got an offensive rebound and passed to Allen, who was backtracking toward the corner. Allen, without even needing to look down to ensure that he was behind the line, elevated over Tony Parker and connected to tie the game. The Heat won in overtime to even the series at 3-3 and followed it with a Game 7 triumph.

Allen doesn't dwell on his most famous shot.

I didn't know," Allen answered when asked if he thought the shot was going in."I felt like it was short because I let it go so easily, but it's history now."