By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – Jenna Allen needs a tutor. Anyone fluent in Spanish?
Allen can speak basketball, and her game will translate in any language. The former Bedford North Lawrence star became the program’s first professional player when she signed with Club Universitario de Ferrol (also know as Baxi Ferrol) in Spain’s Liga Femenia.
After the recent Michigan State standout was passed over in the recent WNBA draft and went unsigned as a free agent, Allen chose this path as the fastest and best way to reach her goal.
“The ultimate goal is the WNBA, so this is the next step, a chance to get better,” Allen said. “It’s a very good starting point, so if I do well it should help me in the future.
“Spain is one of the main countries you want to go to. They’re very renowned around the world, they have good competition, and you’re going to get noticed by WNBA teams and in the Euro League. So this is a good fit.”
Baxi Ferrol is one of 14 teams in the top-tier Spanish league. The team needs immediate help after going 3-22 last season, and Allen (who signed a one-year contract) is already listed as a starting center on the team website. Each team is allowed to have only two American players on the roster.
Allen certainly has the basketball pedigree for the professional ranks.
At BNL, she scored 1,495 career points (now fourth in program history), grabbed a record 943 rebounds, and combined with former teammates Dominque McBryde and Alexa Bailey to win 104 games (including the back-to-back Class 4A state titles). She was an Indiana All-Star.
At Michigan State, she finished her career with 1,098 points. She is one of only 13 Spartans to score 1,000 points and collect 500 rebounds. During her senior campaign, she totaled 12.5 points. 6.5 rebounds, and shot 49 percent from the field.
Allen was a two-time Big Ten Player of the Week and had memorable performances against Notre Dame (21 points, 12 rebounds), Bowling Green (17 and 15), Oregon (27 and 7 against a Final Four team) and Iowa (20 and 17).
Michigan State coach Suzy Merchant called Allen, a 6-foot-4 post, a “complete package.”
“I think in coaching you don’t always have the complete package,” Merchant said. “So many kids nowadays, when you get them coming in as freshmen they don’t know who they are, and they’re not supposed to have all the answers when they’re 18 years old. But what I’m talking about is they really don’t know who they are as a person or what that character inside of them is.
“ Jenna had that. She had that old soul, old wisdom, she came from an amazing family that instilled that in her. Whether she played three minutes as a freshman or started every game and shot every single time it wouldn’t have mattered. She made a commitment to Michigan State, she was all in, she knew who she was. She was a tremendous student in the classroom, an unbelievable ambassador to Michigan State, and a role model to so many young kids, and just one of the kindest-hearted people to be around.
“I was so happy for her this year with some of the success she had. I know she wishes she would have sustained it, she had a couple lulls, but just to watch her come off the court so many times this year with that smile, that joy. She left everything out there. I’ve coached a lot of kids, but she will always be at the top of my list because she is a class act, high in integrity, and just a wonderful person.”
Allen hopes to take advantage of the travel opportunities and see other European countries. She picked Spain as a safe destination.
“They say to travel when you’re young, so that’s what I’m doing,” Allen said. “Why not? I knew I was going to have to go away, but being away from home for four years really prepared me for that. I’ve been five hours away, what’s halfway across the world?”
Allen will report to Baxi Ferrol in September. The league season begins in October and lasts until April.