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John Allen (second from left) holds the ball he was presented with Monday in celebration of his 70th birthday, which was Sunday. Allen still plays in IVCC’s “Noon Ball Association” three times per week. With Allen (left to right) are IVCC professor Greg Oseland, Dr. Marshall Polakoff and former IVCC dean of academic affairs Hans Andrews. Oseland and Polakoff, who is holding a framed T-shirt Allen used to wear while playing, play in the IVCC NBA with Allen and Andrews played when he was at IVCC. NewsTribune photo/Kevin Chlum
Back in 1970 when John Allen came to IVCC to teach anatomy and physiology, he started playing in pickup basketball games at Noon.
Forty-three years later, he’s still playing.
Allen turned 70 on Sunday and showed up Monday to play in the three-day-a-week “Noon Basketball Association.”
“I like basketball, I like working out and playing, so it’s fun,” Allen said about why he keeps playing.
When he showed up Monday, he entered the gym and did his normal jog around the court before stretching, but then his pre-game routine was interrupted.
In honor of his 70 th birthday, fellow Noon ballers Greg Oseland and Dr. Marshall Polakoff presented Allen with a few gifts.
He was given a basketball signed by guys past and present who played Noon ball with Allen and a framed white T-shirt that he wore for years while playing in IVCC’s NBA.
Allen’s son, John Jr., played Monday and his daughter, Alexa and granddaughter, Catherine, who Allen calls Gracie, were in attendance to see him receive his gifts.
“It’s great,” Oseland said about Allen still playing. “John’s an inspiration for a lot of us. One story I’ll always remember about John was in ’84. We were playing one day and I complained to John that I was tired. I was 26. John was like, ‘Tired, you don’t have any reason to say that you’re tired.’ I said, ‘John, how old are you?’ He said, ‘Well, I’m 41.’ That was 29 years ago and he’s still playing. It’s unbelievable.”
Allen, who retired in 2003 after serving as IVCC’s associate dean of career education, is able to continue playing due to his workout regimen and diet.
“I work out. I try to run everyday,” Allen said. “I watch what I eat. I keep my body in good enough shape that I can do it. I figure as long as I do that, I can keep playing. When I’m done doing that, then I’ll quit playing.”
Fellow Noon ballers say Allen still contributes despite playing against current IVCC players who are more than 50 years younger than him.
“John is surprisingly effective for somebody who’s 70 years old,” Polakoff said. “He’s got hands of steel. Once he gets the ball in his hands, there’s no way anybody’s going to get it out. He also knows his limitations so he confines himself to left-handed jump shots, left-handed and right-handed hook shots and 15-foot set shots. He’s also a very fierce rebounder. It’s amazing how he will out-rebound people 50 years younger than him.”
“He’s like a wave coming in,” added Fran Brolley, IVCC’s director of community relations and development who sometimes plays in Noon ball.
“I will tell them, ‘Hey, you’re grandfather is getting all the rebounds,’” Polakoff joked.
“And beating them down the floor,” Oseland added.
While Allen still effectively uses a hook shot that Polakoff says “went out of vogue in the ’60s,” he has changed his game as he’s gotten older.
“I can’t move as fast and I don’t have as good of moves to the basket,” Allen said. “You have to make up for it.”
Allen has compensated by focusing more on defense, rebounding and passing to open teammates.
And physical play.
“What’s interesting about John is he make up for his lack of agility with bulk and brute force,” Polakoff joked about the former center and linebacker for the Indiana State University football team. “Very often when you go to the basket, you can pretty much expect to be fouled by John.”
“He still fouls like a linebacker,” Oseland added with a laugh.
“That’s true,” Allen confirmed.
However, Allen’s taken his share of hits over the years, especially now playing against guys five decades younger.
“It’s pretty rough. Sometimes you have to be careful,” Allen said with a laugh about playing against the IVCC students. “You have to get out of the way or you’ll be in trouble. They can run right over you. I got kicked in the chest about a week or so ago and had sore ribs.”
But he’ll keep playing three times each week.
Kevin Chlum can be reached at 220-6939, or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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