A familiar face to true Miami Heat fans, Malik Allen spent almost four years with the team after going undrafted in 2000. Through those years he played with several notable players in Heat franchise history and had the benefit of being coached by the legendary Pat Riley to begin his NBA journey.
After a ten-year career with eight different NBA teams, Allen has now embarked on a new and exciting venture with business partner Joe Rocco for a website called InRecruit that aims to be the LinkedIn for young athletes. Players can connect with coaches, while proud parents and fans can upload pictures or videos of their favorite athletes. There's even a helpful news feed can help keep track of a star recruit that's building up hype or the latest from your alma mater. The site is in Beta form at the moment after a successful launch back in June with new features and upgrades all in the pipeline.
Allen took some time to explain the idea behind the site as well as recalling the beginning of his pro career here in Miami.
How did the Heat come to discover you?
As far as I know, they had seen me play in the ABA, one of the scouts likely. So they followed me throughout the year and they invited me to one of their free agent workouts, I think it was in the second or third week in June. So I went down and played well that weekend. They pretty much just kept asking me to stay and I wasn't going to leave at that point. That's really how it happened and how I got my shot.
Of course I was excited. I knew that I was close in making it. I was pretty confident, when I played in the minor leagues I played pretty well. So I just took it as a great opportunity. I went down and just played hard, listened and took in as much as I could. They took a liking to the things I could do.
What was it like to all of a sudden make it to the NBA and to do it with the Heat organization?
My experience there was great. Obviously, I still follow them and cheer for them just because they were the first team to give me an opportunity. The thing I always tell people is that everybody always says it's a first-class organization and that's absolutely true. Between the staff and the players that were there, they really taught me how to be a pro in terms of work ethic, learning the NBA game and what it takes.
It's not easy, just trying to make it, it's a rigorous program but it obviously paid off. It really helped me and furthered my development as a basketball player and as a grown-up too. Just learning life in terms of how to work hard and preparation is a big thing.
You worked with three Heat head coaches, two current and one future....
Coach Riley, it was a privilege to be underneath him, to have him as a coach from the aspect of challenging the players to be great and in terms of being professional, coming in to do your job everyday and he'd challenge you that way. I always felt that I was pretty mature but just to pull all that together (was what I needed).
You go from him to Stan Van Gundy, who was a young head coach at the time, it was the perfect storm in terms of him with the type of team we had, a lot of young guys, and trust and believing and finding our way. It was my first opportunity to play (big) minutes in the NBA and we had a young Lamar Odom who was coming onto his own as a professional. We had a young Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem, we had a lot of guys who came together and coach Van Gundy got us to buy in and play together, playing hard. It was fun, really fun.
We had (Erik) Spoelstra there, he was young but his energy was unbelievable. Just the way he came in every day, being in the gym in that player development role, he really relished in it and he took great pride in it. He was just never tired. You've got those guys where they're doing film, they're up early, and they are there before everyone else. You could just tell he had that drive and he got an opportunity and boy did he take advantage of it. It's great to see.
Were Riley's practices as intense as everyone says they were?
You know what? They were obviously very, very hard. He challenged us but we really worked out hard during the summer so once the season came, as hard as practices may have been especially early on like in training camp, we had a very high level of conditioning so that helped.
Miami is not the type of place where you can chill out and for a week or two just play pick-up basketball before training camp and expect to make it through. You'll be on the sidelines quickly because it's a different level of conditioning that needs to be there for your body. That's what made the guys who played for him unique and gives them an edge in their careers. I certainly feel that way, I think it certainly gave me an edge because I wasn't gifted athletically to just walk in the gym and score 30 points, or out-jump and out-run somebody. There was a lot of work that had to go in just to give me an opportunity to go in and compete. You couple that with a lot of the mental aspects and that's how I had to make it.
You and the team went through ups and downs while you were there, going from 50 wins one year and then out of the playoffs next year with a coaching switch...
To be honest with you, I was still young. Maybe I guess a little bit of sticker shock in the very beginning? I think it would have been a lot different had I been a veteran on the team and been in the league for a long time. I was still kind of finding my way myself so there's no time for your head to be spinning. We transitioned and we had to practice the next day. Stan was our coach and we had to play hard for him. Nobody is feeling bad for us because we have a different coach all of a sudden. In a lot of ways it took a little time, but that was the approach of all the guys on the team. We had to represent the organization all the same, whether it was Coach Riley or Coach Stan.
What was it like to play with a young Wade? Did you see his potential?
When training camp first started, you could just tell. He was doing things...he was different. There was just something about him that you could tell he was going to be very special. The thing that popped out was that he worked extremely hard on his game, before practice and after, to compliment the athletic gift that he had.
On top of that he was also a very smart player. He had the total package. If you look at last season and what he's done and everything, it's no mistake that the guy has won three championships. That's just the type of player he is.
I'll never forget, he went up and just got this unbelievably athletic offensive rebound. Bimbo Coles was on the team at the time and I remember we were on the side. We turned to look at each other and saying, "That kid is going to be something!"
So how did this new site come about and how it can help young athletes starting out?
I had finished my tenth year and we were going into the lockout and I knew I was pretty much done but there was still a little window. I was still training a little bit just to see if anything would happen after the lockout ended but in that time, my business partner Joe and I, we had been talking a couple of years prior about doing something together. He had just come out of his previous company getting acquired and I was finishing my career so we had the idea of putting a modern spin on high school and college recruiting. Essentially that's what we did.
Obviously, I've been through the process of recruiting in high school and he's always been a basketball fan so he fell in love with that too. He's been in that world of recruiting, following who's out there and he goes to high school games all the time. We just had good synergy, work-wise, and we came up with the concept and took some time to spec'ing it out amongst ourselves. Then we actually put our head down and went out and built the thing. Here we are and we're having pretty good success with it.
It's obviously a totally different type of work, the entrepreneurial world than the basketball world, but along the same lines of dedication and work ethic. It's a new challenge but it's been great.
How does the site help players to get noticed by the right people?
We always talked about when building it that we wanted to include a little something for everybody but it's especially for athletes who want to start building their brand from an exposure standpoint. You can do that by incorporating the parent or guardian to help in the process on there. We like to keep it very focused and very professional because kids now, we're in the age of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, so we wanted to make something that was similar to that environment but geared toward starting to get ready for a college or professional career. It's going to help them get noticed, potentially get recognized by colleges out there and formulate real connections to really start helping that process and pushing it along the way.
Is it an improvement on the traditional recruitment process?
First, the way of recruiting now is totally different then when I was coming out of school. Obviously there wasn't social media or text messages, it was all letters in the mail and after a certain date you could actually talk to coaches. They would come to your house or talk on the phone. So we're in a much different environment now with social media and that's where the coaches have to be now because that's where the kids are. Again, what we wanted to do is to have a similar environment to that.
Can fans get involved on the site?
There is a fan element that's really pretty cool. What we did was, we have the coach side and the athletes and family side, but what we did for general fans or a fan of, let's say, Malik Allen in high school then you can go on and put Malik into your news aggregate and you get emails sent to you that keeps you up to date on what those guys are doing, how they're doing. So if I'm on inRecruit and you're a fan, I can actually give you admin capabilities to where you're watching one of my games and you're filming and I make a great play, you can actually send it to me and I can post it onto my account.
So obviously it's very helpful for the athlete. The amount of likes that you get from your photos and videos, the more that your profile gets pushed higher so more coaches can actually see you that they may not be able to normally. So it's another way to keep expanding on the exposure for the kids.
The fans really love the news aspect of it, it's great because the technology does it for you. I get news on the kids that I know from up here, I get news on Villanova on my aggregator every day and it keeps me in the loop of what's happening out there. I enjoy it and the feedback we've gotten from a lot of people that are fans of the game is they enjoy that too.
What's the feedback been like from fellow players and how is the new site developing now that it's out?
The feedback from fellow athletes has been really good. We have other things in the works and keeping the site evolving to keep the momentum going. We're developing a mobile app now since the coaches are always on the go and the kids are always on their phone. That's the direction we're heading in. Obviously, we're still evolving. Ultimately, we have something useful for the kids.
Anybody can sign up, it's a free service. There are a lot of athletes on here and interacting and making connections. I'm on there and I've connected with a bunch of people on here. It's really cool, some parents have reached out to just ask some questions and I've been more than happy to answer for them. It's been a nice thing about this, is to be able to give back in that way. It's one of the big reasons we wanted to do it.
Sign up at www.inrecruit.com to get a free account and learn more.