Watch Eric Allen shoot for a couple of minutes on the practice floor inside Murphy Center and a couple of things will immediately stand out.
1) He's big. 2) He can shoot.
Allen, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard from Marion Military Institute in Alabama, brings a dimension to the Middle Tennessee offensive attack that was missing a year ago.
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He can use his height and length to get his shot off against most defenders, and when he does get his shot off, it is a sight to behold.
For a Blue Raider offense that ranked 11th in the Sun Belt last year in three point field goals made, Allen is a much welcomed addition.
Allen is confident he can step in and help solidify what was a weakness last year but he also sees a key area of needed improvement as he prepares to face Sun Belt competition.
"I've got to be able to knock down open shots," Allen said. "One thing I've got to be working on is being able to play through contact. I can hit that open shot but I've got to get better handling the ball and playing through contact, but I think I can step in and be that shooter (the team needs)."
Allen immediately referenced the physical style of play as an upgrade in competition from what he faced in junior college, when he was one of the most prolific outside shooters in the junior college ranks.
He says he notices it mostly away from the ball.
"Working open for the shot, off the ball screen, things of that nature," Allen said of the areas where increased physical contact most impacts the game. "The biggest difference is it's a lot more physical ... You can get away with an offensive foul here, you can get away with grabbing a guy's jersey or holding a guy. It's just more physical, that's the main difference from junior college to this level. Guys are just more physical."
Allen figures to make a quick adjustment though. He's been on campus since the beginning of June working out with his new teammates and getting a feel for how he will best fit in the Blue Raider system.
He knows it's a system that is steadied by several experienced hands, particularly in the backcourt where he is expected to make significant contributions.
"You've got Kevin (Kanaskie), you've got Nigel (Johnson), some experienced guys in the backcourt that can really play all around," Allen said. "They can handle the ball, they can pass, they can shoot, the whole nine. They can guard. We've got a lot of experience. These are the same starters from last year that are back at it, so I like how the team is looking. I'm just still trying to get everything down pat, the offense and the calls and things of that nature. But things are looking good."
Allen watched intently as his new teammates fought hard for a conference championship last year, winning three Sun Belt Tournament games before falling short in the title game against Western Kentucky.
Coach Davis is a real great leader. I'm happy I chose this school and I can see us going far. Real far.
— Middle Tennessee shooting guard Eric Allen, on his expectations for the Blue Raiders.
He visited campus a couple of times during the season and had already a developed a good relationship with several players by the time he arrived on campus late last spring.
He, along with other Blue Raider three point shooting threats, have spent the offseason adjusting to the new three point line distance, which has been pushed back about a foot over previous seasons.
Of all the players on the roster though, the longer distance probably affects Allen the least.
"I don't even think about it," he said. "It just seems like the regular line from junior college. Since I came here from day one on June 2nd I've been shooting from behind that line so I'm used to it by now. As long as I can just get out there, play hard, play defense, be able to play physical and play through contact I can be valuable. That open shot is going to be there, it's just those other things I've got to get better with."
Allen doesn't lack for confidence in himself, but he has plenty of confidence in his new team as well as his new coach.
He thinks it will all add up to a big year for the Blue Raiders.
"Coach Davis is a real great leader. I'm happy I chose this school and I can see us going far. Real far."
GoMiddle.com Countdown to Tipoff
40 days-October 6th: Schedule full of challenges, opportunities
39 days-October 7th: Sun Belt newcomers to watch
38 days-October 8th: Strong memory motivates Yates
37 days-October 9th: Kanaskie in position to leave a legacy
36 days-October 10th: Johnson driving force behind MT attack
35 days-October 11th: O'Neil hopes to pick up where he left off
34 days-October 12th: Boyd's long awaited debut getting closer
33 days-October 13th: Allen may be MT's missing piece