No backcourt pair in SWAC basketball history has combined to score more points than James Mack Allen and Harold Blevins did in three years together at the school now known as the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
No one in school history has scored more points alone in his career or in a single game than Allen, who made the All-SWAC team four times and was an All-American in the small-college ranks.
“The guy was just a tremendous basketball player,” said Blevins, who finished his collegiate career in 1965, a year after Allen.
The thing that Blevins, who coached the UAPB men’s team from 1995-2002, remembers the most about his teammate is “his ability to shoot the basketball” in a time when the three-point line didn’t exist.
“He was a pure shooter in every sense of the word, no doubt about it,” Blevins said.
Allen, known to teammates as “Tampa Red,” died Friday at age 73, according to the Palm Beach (Fla.) Post. The cause of death is unknown.
Allen was a resident of Loxahatchee, Fla., near West Palm Beach, according to the newspaper.
Allen, who prepped at Roosevelt High in West Palm Beach, scored 2,837 points for then-Arkansas AM&N College from 1960-64, a school record to this day, according to former UAPB sports information director Carl Whimper. Blevins is second all-time in scoring, Whimper said, but his total was not immediately available.
Allen also holds the record for the two highest-scoring games in Golden Lions history, which came within two days of each other. On Jan. 25, 1964, during his senior season, Allen scored 56 points against Willis Reed-led Grambling State, then the No. 2-ranked team in the NAIA, in a 129-124 overtime victory. On Jan. 27, Allen netted 49 against Alcorn State in a 109-96 win.
Asked what got Allen going in, Blevins said, “Like I said, he was a pure shooter.
“Back then, we were rippin’-and-runnin’, as they called it then — (they call it) streetball today,” Blevins said. “He was shooting the ball just before he crossed the half-court line.
“If he shot the ball eight times, it would go in seven times, and the eighth time would look so close to going in.”
According to his SWAC Hall of Fame bio, Allen scored 40 or more points in six games his junior year. When he graduated from AM&N in 1964, Allen had helped set a foundation for the Lions as a national leader in scoring.
The next season, the Blevins-led Lions averaged 102.1 points per game, ranking first in what is now NCAA Division II. (Dual membership in the NCAA and NAIA was common for some small schools at the time.)
Despite all of his success at AM&N, Allen failed to make the 1964 U.S. Olympic team and was never drafted by an NBA team. Blevins believes Allen’s 5-foot-10 height had something to do with being overlooked.
“It was amazing,” Blevins said. “Nobody even gave the guy a chance. He was only 5-10.
“The next year, I got drafted with the New York Knickerbockers, but at 6-2, I was considered a big guard. He was just before his time.”
Allen went on to play with the barnstorming Harlem Magicians to finish his basketball career and worked as a high school physical education teacher in Los Angeles before retiring in the West Palm Beach area, according to Blevins. He was inducted into the SWAC Hall of Fame in a 2006 class that included former NBA star and coach Avery Johnson (Southern), former Super Bowl Champion defensive back Everson Walls (Grambling State), former Mississippi Valley State basketball coach Lafayette Stribling and former conference commissioner and NCAA President James Frank.
Funeral services for Allen are scheduled for 11 a.m. Eastern Friday at Palm Beach Lakes Church of Christ in Palm Beach Gardens, the Post reported.