Every junior college transfer has something to prove once they get their chance at a Division I school, but one of the newest additions to the University of New Mexico men’s basketball team already knows that he’s ready to play in front of big crowds at The Pit.
Jay Allen-Tovar is one of the newest members of the University of New Mexico men’s basketball team. He transferred over from Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) where he played for two seasons after not having the required grades to go directly to a Division I school.
“(I am) super athletic, so you might see me dunk on somebody,” Allen-Tovar said. “And I can shoot threes. I’m a tall person who can shoot threes.”
UNM fans got their first chance to see the new forward at Friday’s exhibition game against New Mexico Highlands University, where he led the Lobos in scoring, blocked three shots and finished three lobs with thunderous dunks.
Allen-Tovar is a special kind of athlete that has the ability to cover ground quickly and the size to shed off smaller defenders. He admitted that his low-post play is still a work in progress, but head coach Richard Pitino said, before the Highlands game, that playing Allen-Tovar in the low block will help the Lobos offensively — which it did — even if the big man can play outside.
“I think when he gets the ball down low good things happen,” Pitino said. “I think he needs to demand the ball down low more. He has a tendency to float on the perimeter but good things do happen when he’s on the perimeter.”
Though confident in his abilities, Allen-Tovar has a quiet persona that comes from his father, Bob Santos.
“My dad always used to say, ‘Don’t let the highs get too high; don’t let the lows get too low,’” Allen-Tovar said. “So I’ve stuck with that. I’ll celebrate when we win.”
Although Santos is not his biological father, Allen-Tovar believes that had he not met Santos and his family early in his high school career that he wouldn’t be at UNM today. He’s been close to the family all throughout his years in high school and at SLCC and he refers to them as his “other family.”
“I consider him my father. He considers me his son,” Allen-Tovar said.
Allen-Tovar committed to UNM before having a chance to visit the campus in person because he wanted to make the decision on his mother’s birthday.
“I had told my mom I was going to go D-I out of high school and then I failed with that obviously because I didn’t have grades, so I couldn’t go D-I,” Allen-Tovar said. “So I really just wanted to make it up to her, because I knew I was going to go D-I right after JUCO because I was more focused.”
Allen-Tovar got a tattoo of himself on the first day of practice at UNM to remind himself of the day that he felt he officially made it as a Division I basketball player.
Because UNM plays both the University of Nevada, Las Vegas — the home of his “other family” — and San José State University — where his mother still lives — Allen-Tovar knew UNM was the right choice after JUCO, and these factors played heavily into his commitment to the University.
His two years at SLCC were a great success. As a sophomore, Allen-Tovar shot an incredible 60.7% from the field — the 43rd-best field goal percentage in junior colleges nationally. In the same year, he was chosen as a National Junior Collegiate Athletics Association (NJCAA) All-Academic Third Team and was the third-leading scorer on a team that reached the NJCAA nationals. In the final game at the nationals, Allen-Tovar scored 20 points and grabbed twelve rebounds.
Allen-Tovar believes he is capable of making several conference teams while at UNM. After graduation he wants to play professionally in order to buy a new house for his mom and grandma and take care of his family.
Matthew Salcido is the sports editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @baggyeyedguy