Allen Betrand’s mother kept him involved in sports when he was a kid so he’d stop getting into trouble in school.
The Towson men’s basketball sophomore from Philadelphia, Pa., used to get into fights with schoolmates, so he got a steady diet of football, boxing and, in the winter, he went out for basketball in middle school.
“I was good at football and boxing, but in basketball, I sucked,” Betrand said. “And when I suck at something, I always want to get better, so I work at it. I ended up falling in love with [the game].”
By the time the 6-foot-5 guard was a senior at Roman Catholic High School in 2018, he was averaging 14.2 points, ended up on the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class 6A All-State second team and had become a fixture on the Towson basketball radar.
“We always loved him because he’s from a great program, has that Philly pride and winning DNA,” Towson head coach Pat Skerry said. “He had that competitive spirit that you want, but he has become an efficient shooter. He puts the ball in the basket, has really, really worked on his game. He makes shots — tough pull-ups at the mid-range, rhythm threes. He knocks down free throws. He really works at it. I haven’t been around many guys that worked at it like he has.”
And now Betrand, who came along slowly as a freshman last season, is averaging 14.0 points and 29.1 minutes (both second on the team) and leads the Tigers in 3-point shooting (40 percent). He’s a fixture on a team that’s 19-12, finished third in the Colonial Athletic Association and will play Northeastern March 8 in the quarterfinals of the CAA Tournament at the Entertainment & Sports Arena in Washington, D.C. Towson hasn’t appeared in the NCAA Tournament since 1991.
Skerry, who is one victory shy of at least 20 wins for the third time in the last six seasons, thinks the Tigers could be ready for a run after last year’s 10-22 campaign.
“I’m really proud of our guys, the way they’ve put us back where we used to be,” Skerry said. “This is a great group of guys, good teammates. We played a brutal non-conference schedule and had a tough [0-3] start to the conference, but we haven’t had a ‘D’ level practice this whole season. There might have been a couple of ‘C’s,’ which says a lot about the disposition of the guys we have. They’ve been fun to be with.”
And with his middle school pugilistic impulses behind him, Betrand has fit right in. Instead of hitting classmates like back in the day, Betrand started channeling that pent-up energy into hitting shots. Making sure he didn’t stink any more, he worked his butt off to get better at basketball. A lot better.
And then when things didn’t go the way he hoped his freshman year at Towson, Betrand did the same thing.
“I think last year was just a learning year, a feeling-out year,” he said of a solid freshman campaign that saw him average 4.6 points in 17.8 minutes per in his 32 games. “I learned to have patience. Take your time whatever you’re doing.”
Betrand took that tactic to heart last summer, putting in long hours at home at Roman Catholic High and then later back at Towson.
“I worked on ways to help my team, like getting to my spots on the floor,” Betrand said.
So far, so good for Betrand hitting those spots and hitting shots. He’s the team’s second-leading scorer behind Preseason All-CAA senior Brian Fobbs (16.2 points per game) and a good perimeter complement to Fobbs’ frequent forays to the hoop. Betrand can do that, too, thanks to work in the weight room.
“I worked on my arms, my chest so when I was driving I could finish through the contact,” Betrand said.
Betrand scored 18 points in the first game this year, a win against George Washington Nov. 5, and was in double figures in six of the next seven contests. Down the stretch, he has posted double-digit points in 16 of the Tigers’ last 20 games, including a career high 31-point explosion at Drexel Feb. 8 and has twice earned CAA Player of the Week honors. And the CAA announced March 6 that Betrand was a third-team all-conference selection.
“He has matured with how he approaches practice, being a good teammate, learning the game and watching film,” Skerry said of Betrand. “He’s a guy that loves basketball and that’s why I think he’s going to continue to get better.”
Skerry also loves that Philly toughness Betrand brings. And don’t get Betrand started on his roundball roots.
“In Philadelphia we never let nobody come to our neighborhood and beat us on the court,” he said. “We do everything in our power to win, and there’s a toughness to that way. You foul each other hard. It’s tough.”
Betrand came up in Pennsylvania playing against the likes of De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Charlie Brown Jr., all currently with the Atlanta Hawks; Lamarr Kimble of Louisville; Trevon Duval from Duke and now in the NBA G League; Kevin Anderson at Delaware, and Eric Ayala at Maryland.
As for toughness, how about this nugget: Betrand has scored in double figures in the second half of 13 games this season.
But Betrand isn’t the fighter he once was, except maybe in tight games. He has added maturity to his makeup and is just enjoying the ride the Tigers are taking. His parents, Allen and Shaunte, set a good example he grew to follow.
“My parents were my biggest influence, seeing them work every day, sometimes two jobs just to support us,” he said. “It made me want to go out there every day and give it my all.”
Betrand has found family at Towson, too.
“Coach Skerry checked up on me usually twice a day during recruiting,” Betrand said. “He was always straight with me and was always asking me if I was good and how my family was. That was just family to me.”
Skerry has his players over to his house pretty regularly and they play games and laugh and joke, but acting like a family is building a team.
“Every day we have fun, like dancing in practice,” Betrand said. “We want to have fun.”
Betrand is paying attention to what Skerry is doing, too. He hopes to coach someday after his playing days, which if he has his way, will extend to the pro level. He has already learned a lot under Skerry, first having to earn his way into more run last year as a freshman, and now as an old hand helping the Tigers roar loudly.
“I’ve learned you have to have a lot of patience to be a coach and you have to believe in your players,” Betrand said.
Betrand also likes the seemingly perennial perception of Towson as underdogs.
“Everybody always doubts us, and we always want to prove them wrong,” he said. “That’s been the highlight for me. We’re very confident we can win this whole tournament.”
Betrand would tell you the Tigers certainly have a fighting chance.
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Towson Athletics