How ‘Quiet’ Nets Center Jarrett Allen is Making Noise in Brooklyn
BROOKLYN -- On a hot summer day in Clinton Hill, the youngsters inside Levels Barbershop have a bunch of questions for Jarrett Allen—just not about the Brooklyn Nets big man himself.
What's it like facing Steph Curry?
“Have you beat LeBron?” Jarrett adds. (The answer is yes, in his fifth NBA game.) “That's the one I get every time. But they're just having fun and enjoying themselves, and I'm happy to answer their questions.”
Jarrett, who turned 20 this past April, is still making a name for himself.
Last year, the 6’11” center with the signature afro made significant strides in his rookie season with the Nets. After playing sparingly during the first two months of the season, Jarrett started Brooklyn's final 31 games, during which he averaged 10.5 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.7 blocks while shooting 62.1 percent from the floor in almost 24 minutes a night. He's hoping to build on that in 2018-19.
His agent, Derrick Powell, wants him to put his stamp on the borough—both on and off the court.
“I want him to be Mr. Brooklyn,” Derrick says.
To that end, Jarrett hosted his second annual back-to-school haircut event at the barbershop on Fulton St. in Brooklyn, about a 10-minute walk from the Barclays Center. Fifty underprivileged kids received free haircuts, along with gift bags featuring Nets swag.
“I want people to know that we care about them,” Jarrett says. “I know some of them can't afford it and some of them are struggling in life. But I want them to know that we're here for them, and we want them to succeed in life.”
Jarrett, who has always been quiet and reserved by nature, was selected No. 22 overall by the Nets in the first round of the 2017 NBA draft. Despite spending just one season at the University of Texas, he made an immediate impact as a shotblocker, rebounder and finisher around the rim. He spent the offseason improving his footwork and jumper—extending out past the three-point line.
“Coming into the year and getting drafted it's, like, ‘Who is this new guy?’” Jarrett says. “And then I played the season and showed I was giving my all on the court. I was trying to have [Brooklynites] accept me, and this year, you can tell that they're coming around. And I'm getting recognized a lot more in the community, too.”
Away from the game, the self-professed “computer nerd” can be found playing Overwatch, a team-based, first-person multiplayer video game. Jarrett, whose father, Leonard, works at Dell, built his first PC after his freshman year of high school—taking three months to find the right parts and only 45 minutes to put together—and has been upgrading it ever since. He's eagerly awaiting the release of a new graphics card to put into the machine.
“He's a quiet ride,” Powell says of Jarrett's personality. “He doesn't say much, but he sees everything. It's like the Jay-Z line: 'Like a dog I never speak, but I understand.' That's Jarrett. He doesn't say anything, but he understands. He gets it.”
According to Derrick, Jarrett's unique interests and personality created a misconception among some NBA executives heading into the draft that he didn't care enough about basketball.
“He loves to win,” Derrick says. “When he's on the court, he plays to win, he wants to win, he plays hard. So what if he has other interests? Just because he's not one of those regular jocks that's going to be lying to himself saying, ‘I always have to be basketball, basketball, basketball?’ No, he's a human being. He loves the game, but he also loves his parents and he likes computers.”
Jarrett has also enjoyed getting acclimated to Brooklyn, where he currently resides. Sure, it's different than Round Rock, Texas, where he grew up—definitely more fast-paced—but he's also been able to take advantage of his new home, whether walking around town, hanging out in Prospect Park or ordering chicken parmigiana from his favorite Italian restaurant, Forno Rosso.
“I don't have a lot about me,” he says. “I'm a simple guy, in my opinion. I've never been showing out.”
Jarrett hasn't made any extravagant purchases since signing his rookie deal, save for a $600 computer part, according to Derrick. In that way, among others, he's not exactly your typical NBA player.
“Jarrett's not afraid of himself,” Derrick says. “He's comfortable in his own skin. I always tell him, 'Be you.'”
Nets big man Jarrett Allen poses with a fan at Levels Barbershop in Brooklyn. (Courtesy of Tandem Sports + Entertainment)
Jarrett started going with an afro regularly as a sophomore in high school. He got it shaped a bit at Levels Barbershop, but usually his father is the only one allowed to cut it. Older Nets fans have certainly appreciated his hairstyle, which harkens back to the days when Julius Erving played at Nassau Coliseum.
Still, the goal is to be known for more than just his 'fro. The goal is to be known as Mr. Brooklyn.
“I want people when they see Jarrett to think of Brooklyn,” Powell says. “I know it's a stretch, but when people think about the Lakers right now, they think about LeBron James. They used to think about Kobe. So when people think about the Brooklyn Nets, I want them to say the guy with the bush. You mean Jarrett Allen? I'll take either or.”
Jarrett may not be a recognizable face in Brooklyn just yet, but he did manage to put smiles on the faces of some local kids in need of a free buzz before the end of summer.
Says Jarrett, “There's no better feeling than looking fresh on your first day of school.”
Mike Mazzeo is a veteran NBA writer based in New York City. Follow him on Twitter.