VEF Riga's Kyle Allman named MVP of the month for December
RIGA (Latvia) - The engine that powers the 2020-21 VEF Riga machine, Kyle Allman Jr., has been named MVP of the Month for December after propelling his team to their best start to a Basketball Champions League campaign since they joined the competition.
The young guard, who just turned 23 years old in September, averaged 20 points, 9 assists and an efficiency rating of 22 per game through December as VEF rose to 3-1 in the standings, tied with SIG Strasbourg for first place in Group E.
"It’s a good feeling to hear I’m the MVP of the month, I put in a lot of work so to be able to see it pay off is huge for me," Allman told championsleague.basketball.
In the beginning of the year I had no idea that this was my potential as a playmaker, but Coach brought the best out of me and now I am seeing the benefits - Kyle Allman
"Honestly, I wasn’t hoping to get any of these accolades, I just wanted to play well and win. When i found out I was getting this [honor] I was really happy, but it’s not something I hoped for."
Allman dished 9 assists in three straight games, including VEF's win at Peristeri in late November and their two wins over Rytas Vilnius in December, becoming only the second player in BCL history to put together such a streak.
ᴋʏʟᴇ ᴀʟʟᴍᴀɴ ᴊᴜɴɪᴏʀ 👀— VEF Rīga (@vefriga) December 9, 2020
The American guard is now averaging 7.5 assists per game in his debut BCL season. He had no idea his game would evolve in this direction when he joined VEF from Greek side Lavrio, his first club in Europe, back in the summer. But he knows very well who deserves credit for steering his development that way.
"My coach [Janis Gailitis] gave me the confidence to be a facilitator and he allows me the freedom to make plays when the ball is in my hands," Allman said.
It feels great to come to a place and completely change the culture. I think it makes me happy and it makes everyone else around me excited to play every game - Kyle Allman
"In the beginning of the year I had no idea that this was my potential as a playmaker, but he brought the best out of me and now I am seeing the benefits.
"My court vision and passing have definitely improved, but like I said I have to give credit to my coach for bringing out my potential as a playmaker.
"Every day we do passing breakdowns in different situations, so that’s where I work on some of my passing."
Allman´s adjustment to the European style of play in such a short amount of time is nothing short of impressive, considering that he graduated from Cal State Fullerton in 2019 and in his first year as a professional he only saw action in the Greek league, since Lavrio were not playing in a European competition.
"I pretty much like everything [about European basketball] except the fact that you can sit in the paint as long as you want, and when people make stopping fouls on me," Allman said.
"The biggest adjustment I had to make was [to play through] less isolation and more pick and roll reads. [I had to adjust to] being able to use multiple ball screens in one possession rather than shooting a difficult shot after one failed screen."
The adjustments Allman made to his game have worked so well, that he has helped VEF to turn around their BCL fortunes 180 degrees. The Riga team went 1-13 in the 2019-20 campaign and had the worst Regular Season record in the league.
This season, they already have three wins under their belt and are on the cusp of securing a spot in the Play-Offs for the first time.
"It feels great to come to a place and completely change the culture. I think it makes me happy and it makes everyone else around me excited to play every game," the VEF star said.
"The BCL is a really competitive league and we all have aspirations to come in first place and make it out of our group.
"So I think that right there it's extra motivation for me to play as hard as I can with my team so that we can make the Play-Offs."
Allman is so focused on achieving that goal with VEF, that unlike most people he won't sit on January 1st and reassess his priorities.
"I won’t have any New Year's resolutions," he said.
"I set goals for myself when I was on my flight to Latvia and I think I will see those through."
As someone that grew up in Brooklyn though, Allman might allow some time to keep up with the Brooklyn Nets in their first season with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the team.
"I’m definitely excited about that. I’m a big time KD fan so I’m just excited to see him play anywhere," he said.
"With the time difference, I’m not sure if I can catch up with the NBA, but I’ll always be checking the scores in the morning.
"My favorite players to watch are Russell Westbrook, CJ McCollum and Kevin Durant."