B-CU Mourns Passing of Basketball Great Johnnie Allen
It was learned today that Johnnie Allen, the all-time leading scorer for the Bethune-Cookman men’s basketball team, has passed away. He was 70.
Nicknamed “Gator”, the Delray Beach, Fla. native, who scored 3,067 points and combined with Carl Fuller to provide the cornerstone of the greatest age of Wildcats basketball, died Tuesday morning due to kidney problems.
“He was the greatest player we have ever had,” said Bethune-Cookman Associate Athletic Director Jack “Cy” McClairen, who coached Allen. “He came in and revolutionized the shooting for our big men.”
McClairen pursued Allen for four years to play basketball at Bethune-Cookman. Instead, Allen would play barnstorming games throughout Florida until finally relenting in 1965.
“I kept telling him, ’you have to go school somewhere; you’re too good of a player not to be playing,’” McClairen recalled. “As soon as one of his former teammates [Reginald Dobard] left, he said ‘Okay, I’m ready’, and he suited up.”
In his freshman season, Allen averaged 27.1 points per game and shattered the previous single-season school record of Calvin Johnson as the Wildcats earned their second consecutive post-season appearance.
His finest year was his junior season of 1967-68, when he averaged 32.1 points a game and battled for the national scoring title as his scoring, along with Fuller’s rebounding, paced the Wildcats to a 24-7 record that included a 104-101 win over Florida A&M in the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) championship. That allowed them a berth in the NCAA Division II Tournament.
Allen still holds 11 Wildcat basketball records. His career-high game of 51 points against Edward Waters from 1969 was one of 35 games in which he scored 30 points or more.
Still, the one play McClairen will always remember about Allen is a basket that didn’t count – a game with Stetson his senior season.
“We ran a triple pick and we gave him five seconds to shoot,” McClairen noted. “He caught the ball, turned around and shot in the time we gave. He came through and dropped the ball in, but the Stetson scorekeeper said time had expired,” McClairen said. “It was a beautiful play and I dreamt about that for years … Johnnie Allen was super and he could flat-out shoot.”
After Bethune-Cookman, Allen had a brief professional career with the San Diego (now Houston) Rockets of the American Basketball Association. He returned to Palm Beach County and enjoyed a lengthy career as a teacher and basketball coach.
His funeral is Saturday, June 29, at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, 111 36th Street, West Palm Beach at 2 p.m. Shuler’s Memorial Chapel is in charge of the services.