NBA star’s daughter is making name for herself — in volleyball

Wellesley High girls’ volleyball coach Wayne Lem knows what he has in Tierra Allen. Kristen Cieri, who coaches girls’ basketball at the school, can only hope. She hasn’t seen Allen play yet. But she hears good things.

Allen, a senior, moved to Wellesley this summer from South Carolina, where she was named the region’s volleyball player of the year while suiting up for Crestwood High School in Sumter, S.C.

“We heard rumblings that she might be moving up here for her junior year,’’ said Lem.

But Allen had to wait to see where her father would be employed this year.

That would be future NBA Hall of Famer Ray Allen, a Wellesley resident whose status with the Boston Celtics was up in the air until he signed a two-year deal in July. Tierra moved in with her dad and stepmother later that month.

The first thing you notice about 5-foot-8 Tierra Allen is her personality and good manners.

“Well, I am from the South,’’ she said with a smile.

“She’s very likeable and coachable,’’ said Lem. “She gets along well with her teammates.’’

And as a player? “I’m going to nominate her for All-Scholastic,’’ said Lem.

“She’s a tremendous hitter. Lot of power. She’s very athletic. Volleyball has become a game of specialty players, but Tierra can go from front line to back. Not too many players can play the full rotation. She’s been a blessing for us.’’

The team’s senior cocaptains agree with their coach.

“Last year we kinda struggled on and off the court. Tierra has brought our team together,’’ said Morgan Kellogg. Added Erin Baker, “She’s made us a stronger team. Her intensity made us play harder.’’

The Raiders entered Friday’s regular-season finale at Newton North High with a 13-3 record, and a berth in the state postseason tournament already in hand.

Allen started out playing basketball. When she was in the eighth grade, some of her teammates suggested she try out for volleyball. She made the junior varsity team. Her experience with the new sport was a far cry from hoops.

“I was frustrated. I wasn’t used to playing something I wasn’t great at, or the go-to girl,’’ she said.

Allen had some catching up to do. She hit the weight room, and went to volleyball camp in the summer. She earned all-league honors as a sophomore and as a junior at Crestwood High.

“My strengths are hitting, and my volleyball IQ,’’ she said.

Her weakness?

“My serve. Some days I have it, some days I don’t.’’

One thing that is consistent is a deep loathing for losing. Recently, returning home after the Raiders had lost, 3-1, to Bay State Conference rival Newton North High, her father noticed how frustrated she was, Allen recalled.

“He said, ‘You know what I’m going to tell you.’ I said, ‘Yeah. Frustration is a sign of weakness,’ ’’ she said. “I hate to lose. I come from a very competitive household. I’m 18 and I have five younger brothers. I got stuck babysitting them. It was ridiculous.’’

At least her oldest stepbrother, 13-year-old Maleek, could give her some one-on-one basketball competition.

“He’s really good,’’ she said.

Ray Allen first saw his daughter’s potential as a basketball player in the eighth grade.

“I’d look up and she’d have 14 points and 13 rebounds,’’ he said.

At the same time, Tierra had to adjust to a growth period.

“Her mother is 6 feet,’’ said her father, who is 6-foot-5.

Cieri said she hopes Tierra can be a difference-maker on the basketball court like she has been in volleyball.

“All I heard was that she was a very good volleyball player, and I understand she plays basketball,’’ she said. “I’m anxious to find out.’’

Cieri said she doesn’t want the newcomer to feel pressure because “she’s Ray Allen’s daughter. She’ll have to earn her spot.’’

The first practice is the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Allen plans on playing at least one and maybe both sports in college. Her father constantly reminds her that she has to stay in shape. Ray Allen is 35 and in tremendous condition. Tierra Allen has a fondness for bread and pasta.

“If he sees me eating a bag of potato chips, he tells me when I finish, I have to run or work out,’’ she said. “All summer we worked on fitness. We’d go to the gym in Connecticut. He’s always the first one in the gym and the last one out.’’

“I wanted her to lose a couple of pounds,’’ Ray Allen said.

He knows that at her height, it would be very difficult for Tierra to play the post at a Division 1 college. Her more likely positions would be as a shooting guard, or either of the forward slots, he said.

Starting her senior year at a new school “was a little rocky,’’ Tierra admitted. Volleyball changed that in a hurry.

“We’ve been a real close team,’’ she said. “I hope it’s the same with basketball.’’

Allen will be playing with one of the best players in the state, senior guard Blake Dietrick, who has committed to attend Princeton next fall. Not surprisingly, the two have heard of each other. Dietrick is a terrific perimeter player with three-point range. She’s hoping Allen’s physical presence will give Wellesley a solid inside presence.

“I’m a post player, but I can do a little guard work too,’’ said Allen.

Other students just assumed Allen would play basketball.

“It’s not even a question, they just say ‘You’re going to be so good in basketball,’ and ‘You and Blake are going to be a beast together,’ ’’ she said. “It’s just another expectation to live up to.’’

She said she plans to play AAU basketball next summer.

When Cieri gets to know Tierra Allen better, she may echo Lem’s sentiment.

“A player of her caliber,’’ he said, “I’m happy to have even if it’s just for one year.’’

Lenny Megliola can be reached at  

© Copyright The New York Times Company