Life is fleeting.
We were reminded of how short life can be on Monday night when former University of South Dakota and Kentucky star Desmond Allison, 31, was shot and killed outside an apartment complex in Columbus, Ohio. http://aol.sportingnews.com/ncaa-basketball/story/2011-07-26/former-uk-basketball-player-desmond-allison-shot-killed
I did not really know Desmond Allison, except for the relationship that a (former) Sports Information Director has with athletes competing at The University of South Dakota. In my association with him in 2005-07, I liked the soft-spoken Allison as I worked with the coaches (and Dez) to set up interviews with the media. What I remember about him - other than being a remarkable athlete - was how considerate he was and how glowingly teammates talked about him as a teammate.
As I looked over Google for stories about Allison, I began recalling from my time at USD how some Coyote athletes died too young (more on a future blog); often of what seemed unfair and cruel circumstances (illness, car accidents, etc.). Allison's death was cruel and unfair in my view. With his athletic career seemingly over, he was moving on to other things.
From story after story in the Google search, I found that Allison's friends spoke highly of him as a person with tremendous potential in athletics and a good person, who couldn't shake trouble. He grew up in a crime-infested neighborhood in Tampa, Fla., and was able to use athletics to get away from that dark environment.
Many say he was the greatest athlete they knew. http://www.tampabay.com/hometeam/blog/desmond-allison-killed-ohio/10123/. NBA star Tracy McGrady called him a friend and was shaken by Allison's death. Here he speaks about his relationship in a blog by John Clay. http://johnclay.bloginky.com/2011/07/25/tracy-mcgrady-and-tampa-remember-desmond-allison/.
His high school coach at Robinson High in Tampa, Fla., told the St. Petersburg Times (Fla.) http://www.tampabay.com/sports/preps/former-robinson-high-standout-desmond-allison-reportedly-shot-killed-in/1182392 that he was dismayed by the news of Allison's death. "Another tragedy, one that has a far-reaching effect on Robinson High School and the Tampa community. I'll tell you what, in all my life, Desmond Allison was the best athlete I've ever seen. He had opportunities that he squandered, but he kept trying. He had a great personality. This is a sad, sad turn of events.''
"Desmond's death represents what's wrong in American cities these days," said University of South Dakota Head Football Coach Ed Meierkort, who gave Allison the opportunity to play football for the Coyotes in 2005. "The Coyote Family is pained with this news of a young man that was always positive and had so much potential. Our prayers are with Desmond's family," said Meierkort.
Others, including those in the media, also reflected about a man who left the world far too soon. http://kentuckysportsradio.com/?p=87781
Before ending up at Kentucky and then USD, Allison was a high school prep phenom in both football and basketball at Robinson High. He was a highly ranked basketball player listed at #61 among the top 100 players in the country by RSCI in 1998. His ranking placed him ahead of current NBA stars John Salmons and Udonis Haslem as well as current San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates. At the top of the list was current NBA standout Al Harrington with Stromile Swift ranked fifth.
He was recruited to Kentucky where he was a freshman starter for the defending national champion Wildcats. He started two seasons at Kentucky (averaged 8.9 points and 4.4 rpg., as a sophomore), playing alongside current NBA star Tayshawn Prince. Then in his second season, he was arrested for a DUI and due to head coach Tubby Smith's "no tolerance" policy was forced to leave the program.
After a year in NAIA basketball and some additional troubles with the law, Allison was given a shot to return to athletics at age of 25 with The University of South Dakota football team. Meierkort allowed Allison to come play football for USD in 2005 as a tight end/wide receiver.
During his two seasons at USD, Allison was a standout for the then-Division II Coyotes. He finished with career totals of 51 receptions for 747 yards and 16 TDs. In 2006, he had 35 receptions for 547 yards and nine TDs, including a scoring catch in a second round playoff loss to Grand Valley State. His contributions had helped the Coyotes reach the playoffs for the first time since the 1986 season. In 2005, he had 16 receptions for 200 yards and seven TDs for the Coyotes (9-2) nation's top scoring team at nearly 50 per game.
Allison showed Coyote coaches and fans a unique set of skills on the football field that he displayed in big moments. One of my most vivid memories about Allison was his 3-TD performance (17, 14, 27 yards) that helped the Coyotes win a first-round playoff game in 2006 at Northwood (Mich.), 31-28 in overtime. In that game, he had 78 yards receiving on five catches. It was USD's first playoff win since defeating Troy State in the national DII semifinals in 1986.
I also recall the 18-yard TD pass he caught in the 4th quarter of the Coyotes' playoff loss with Grand Valley State a week later. In 2005, he caught the a TD in the NCC title game (seven yard TD throw from Wesley Beschorner) in which USD defeated North Dakota, 42-30, to claim a share of the conference crown, the school's first since 1978.
Yet, with all those football skills, he was willing to help other programs try to get better. Obviously, he had matured and found footing at USD. I recall Allison practicing with Dave Boots' men's basketball team.
As you can see, all of my recollections of Allison are connected to athletics. I am sure his friends and family can relate more personal stories, which they will do with each other as they say goodbye.
Like Meierkort and many others, I offer my condolences to his family and friends. His death is sad, tragic and pointless. He becomes another victim of senseless gun violence. FBI statistics on gun violence from 2008 showed that more than 14,000 people died from gun-related homicides.
Thanks for the memories Desmond, you will always be a Coyote. Rest in peace.
McKelvey 2nd at Pan Am Juniors... Kyle McKelvey of Beresford, who will be member of the 2011-12 University of South Dakota men’s track and field team, took second in the shot put at the 2011 Pan American Junior Athletics Championships held Sunday at the Ansin Sports Complex in Miramar, Fla. McKelvey continued his unbelievable year with a throw of 60 feet, 4 inches. He finished second to Jamaica's Ashinia Miller (65-6 1/4) and was well ahead of third place Caleb Whitener of the University of Georgia at 56-6.
Coyote Pre-season All-Americans...Punter Cole Zwiefelhofer (Chippewa Falls, Wisc.) and offensive tackle Tom Compton (Rosemount, Minn.) have been named to Phil Steele’s 2011 Preseason FCS All-America Team. Compton is a first team selection, while Zwiefelhofer was selected on the third team.
SDSU FB Stars Sign With NFL...With NFL training camps about to begin (finally), local players are signing with teams. KELO is reporting today that SDSU standouts Colin Cochart and Cole Brodie are headed to Cincinnati and Jacksonville respectively. The Argus Leader's Terry Vandrovec says that Derek Domino has signed with the Denver Broncos. All are unrestricted free agent signings.
Couple of national notes... The USA women's softball team captured the World Cup of Softball with 6-4 win over Japan on Monday. http://espn.go.com/olympics/softball/story/_/id/6802037/us-beats-japan-claim-world-cup-softball-title.
Meanwhile, Michael Phelps swimming reign may be over as Ryan Lochte has defeated him in the 200 Free. It may make Lochte the world's top swimmer. http://espn.go.com/olympics/swimming/story/_/id/6801756/swimming-world-championships-ryan-lochte-beats-michael-phelps-200-free