NORFOLK — More than halfway through the regular season, it’s becoming safe to admit that the hype that followed Vasean Allette from the Great White North was justified.
Allette, a Toronto native, was ranked as Canada’s No. 1 recruit in the high school class of 2023 when he committed to Old Dominion. Now an electrifying freshman guard, Allette leads the Monarchs and is tied for third in the Sun Belt Conference with 17.0 points per game.
When Marshall visits Chartway Arena on Thursday night to open ODU’s four-game homestand, Allette will continue to try to live up to expectations that are turning out to be wholly justified.
“I think when we recruited him as a staff, we knew that he was very offensively talented,” acting head coach Kieran Donohue said. “We knew that he was a guy that could score the basketball, and he’s proven that he can do that. He’s a creative offensive scorer. So I think he’s proven to be as valuable as our staff expected him to be — or certainly hoped him to be.”
The 6-foot-3 Allette’s resume speaks for itself. He averaged nearly 30 points per game in the 2022 Under Armor Association summer league. He averaged 18.8 points for Canada’s entry into the U18 Americas Championship, helping his team to a bronze medal.
He turned down dozens of scholarship offers from all corners of the U.S., including Arizona State and Georgia Tech, in part because Monarchs assistant Jordan Brooks was the first college coach to recruit him.
Another reason: “It just felt like a home away from home,” Allette said.
That feeling might seem especially valuable to a player from another country, but Allette has made it a point to get to know his teammates and immerse himself in their group dynamic.
Signed along with his twin brother, Yamari, Allette has seen few cultural differences.
“Everybody’s kind of the same over here,” he said. “I don’t really feel too different or too left out. We’re all really close. We already have a lot of things in common.”
One trait shared across the team is a need to improve defensively. The Monarchs (4-13, 0-5 Sun Belt) rank 12th in the 14-team league in defense, allowing 72.9 points per game. It’s a big reason the team has lost six straight games.
Before he was sidelined by a heart attack last month while the team was in Hawaii for a tournament, 11th-year head coach Jeff Jones said Allette’s ability to improve on the defensive end would be a key to ODU’s success.
Donohue, a longtime assistant to Jones, has seen it happening.
“I think he’s making progress, absolutely,” Donohue said. “He’s making progress in all areas of his game, and that is certainly an area where he is, I think, visibly trying to get better and trying to improve. There’s definitely improvement that has been made.”
One player who has had a long look at Allette’s progress is Monarchs forward Dani Pounds.
A 6-7 freshman from Atlanta, Pounds played against Allette in a couple of summer tournaments during high school. Allette was good enough to stand out in Pounds’ memory for two years, so what he’s doing this early in his career is hardly a surprise.
“It’s been the same thing, so I ain’t been too, oh, shocked about how his game’s going,” Pounds said. “I’m just glad that he’s more comfortable on the college level.”
As the Monarchs look to finally find their footing with a much-needed lengthy stretch of home games, Allette hopes to play a major part in a change of course.
ODU will have to do it without Jones, who announced Sunday that he is taking the rest of the season off to recover from the heart attack and resume treatment for prostate cancer.
As unsurprised as Donohue and Pounds have been at what he’s done, it’s all been business as usual for Allette. He also leads the team with 5.9 rebounds and 31.8 minutes per game, and he’s tied for the team lead with 43 assists.
“I feel like I’ve been playing OK, pretty well scoring-wise,” Allette said. “I’m getting my teammates involved a little bit. But I haven’t exceeded my expectations because coming into the season, I felt like I could do enough for us to be in a better situation in terms of the team. So I’m just going to keep working and striving towards turning this thing around and bouncing back.”
David Hall, firstname.lastname@example.org