Four years ago, the Cal Poly men’s basketball program went all the way to Minnesota to get a player who has since become an all-Big West Conference forward.
Third-year Mustangs head coach Joe Callero had a much shorter trip to find someone he thinks is reminiscent of David Hanson.
Mission Prep senior Zachary Allmon celebrated signing a letter of intent to Cal Poly on Thursday at Cowitz Court, only a few miles from Mott Gym.
Callero said the 6-foot-7 Allmon’s work ethic, skill set and flexibility are similar to those of Hanson, a senior from Plymouth, Minn. Hanson has made 104 shots from 3-point range over the past two seasons, and when needed, has also shown the toughness to defend well above his 6-5 frame.
While Allmon averaged 10.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks as a junior, he also had four games in which he sank at least one 3-pointer.
“Zach’s the kind of player who’s going to do whatever’s asked of him,” Royals coach Terrance Harris said. “He knows that in order to get playing time he’s going to need to be versatile.”
Indeed, Allmon said the Mustangs’ staff told him they envision him “similar to what David Hanson plays, kind of a stretch forward out on the wing and going hard playing down low.”
He scored 12.2 points per game last year before being selected as an all-county first-team choice by The Tribune. Mission Prep (18-11) made it to the semifinals of the Southern Section Division 5AA playoffs, falling 86-72 to a Flintridge Prep team led by Harvard-bound center Kenyatta Smith, with Allmon ailing from an ankle injury.
Callero described Allmon as an eager competitor who’s naturally outgoing, confident and well-spoken, which should translate into being a welcome teammate and floor leader.
Over the offseason, Allmon caught the eyes of the L.A. Rockfish, and his stock increased after playing for the 27-year-old AAU program that counts former Indiana Pacer Austin Croshere among its alumni.
In particular, the club’s manager, Dave Benezra, recalls a defining play at a tournament in Las Vegas that signified Allmon’s growth.
“He got his shoulder past a guy, and it didn’t look like he had a great angle, but he got through it, went up and just threw it down as hard as he could,” Benezra said. “That was a moment where I thought, ‘He has what it takes to be a Division I kid,’ because the game is so much more physical at that next level.”
Harris added: “He put in a lot of work this spring and summer, and it definitely paid off. He’s gotten a lot more athletic, his body has filled out a little bit, so he’s even stronger now than he was when he first came here, and his ability to finish at the rim is much better now.
“And he’ll continue to work,” Harris said. “By no means is he a finished product.”
Callero also spoke highly of Allmon’s upside.
“You see that incremental improvement that we look for in kids,” Callero said. “It’s really, ‘What’s he going to be like in two or three years?’ ”
Even so, he’ll be given a chance to vie for playing time as a true freshman following the graduations of current senior big men Will Donahue and Will Taylor.
“The plan for him now is to have him develop over the summer and be in the mix,” Callero said.
The Mustangs also signed two others this week: Brian Bennett, a 6-9 center from Plainfield East (Romeoville, Ill.) High and Josh Hall, a 6-8 forward from Brush Prairie, Wash.
Benezra echoed Callero’s sentiments on his demeanor.
“If something wouldn’t go his way, he’d automatically take responsibility for it,” Benezra said. “He also takes constructive criticism well. He’s a bright kid who works hard and has confidence. That’s the trifecta.”
Allmon moved to the Central Coast with his family entering his junior year, after playing at Frontier High in Bakersfield, where he was able to dunk as a freshman.
His recent success for the Royals on the hardwood came after a football season in which he overpowered smaller defensive backs, with his best game coming at Nipomo, where he caught seven passes for 143 yards and a touchdown in an historic 21-7 win.
Allmon, who also had an offer from Sacramento State, said it’ll be “very special” to be able to play collegiately in front of his parents.
Former Morro Bay High star Dylan Royer, a redshirt junior shooting guard who joined the team as a walk-on, is the lone local currently on the Mustangs’ roster. Allmon is the first county product to receive a scholarship from the program since 2001 Arroyo Grande grad Phil Johnson. Allmon will be the first Royal to play for the Mustangs since 1995 alumnus Ross Ketcham.
In addition to Allmon, Mission Prep will also bring back an experienced backcourt into this upcoming season, featuring point guard Mike Cardwell and leading scorer Andy Rowley, as well as return-ing forward Connor Woolpert.
“We’ve improved tremendously,” Allmon said. “I think this year, the sky’s the limit for us.”