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Desmond Allison (1979-2011)


I was saddened to hear tonight about the untimely death of former Kentucky basketball player Desmond Allison in Columbus, Ohio. Preliminary reports from the ABC affiliate in Columbus suggest that Allison was shot after an argument between two women and was pronounced dead thereafter at a local hospital. There is as of yet, no word on the suspect in the shooting or if any particular motive could be established.

I have always been a fan of Desmond Allison, in large part because his time at UK paralleled my time at Transylvania University. Allison was part of the first complete Tubby Smith recruiting class at Kentucky. He came in with Tayshaun Prince, Jules Camara, JP Blevins and Todd Tackett in a class that was supposed to be the cornerstone of the early Tubby Smith era in Lexington. Allison was an all-world athlete, excelling at both football and basketball due to his unbelievable physical ability. Watching Allison explode to the rim in pickup games in Lexington was the stuff of early-internet legend and he thus became a particular favorite of those young message board fans. In my time following Kentucky basketball, I have seen no player whose initial jumping burst was quicker than Allison. His stats at Kentucky weren’t spectacular, but he was a starter most of his Sophomore season and had some great individual games, such as his 23 point career-high performance versus Vanderbilt. When he was focused, his career seemed headed on an upward path that would include college, and potentially professional, success.

However unfortunately for Allison, problems reared their head at Kentucky. He was part of the group that later became Team Turmoil, due to the constant discipline issues that engulfed the team. This was the team that spent time living off campus during the renovation of Wildcat Lodge, and the resulting discipline problems were prevalent throughout the period. Allison was part of a group of players that were notorious for being involved in messy situations and his play, like that of the team’s, often suffered in response. The explosive athlete and shut-down defender, often looked lethargic during his Sophomore season at Kentucky and issues followed him throughout the season. Then, Desmond Allison was caught driving with an open container of alcohol and a blood-alcohol level above the legal limit in Lexington. If Allison were in a normal circumstance, he likely would have been suspended, but allowed to remain at Kentucky. But his incident followed the enactment of UK’s short-lived “no-tolerance policy” that followed the Jason Watts tragedy, where one UK footballer was killed. Allison was thus dismissed from the team, the only basketball player who lost his career due to the policy, and ended up transferring out of Lexington for good.

His life then took a circular path, that included a trip to an NAIA school, tryouts for professional leagues and unfortunately, a number of drug arrests in a short period of time. Allison however tried to turn his life around and even spent some time at the age of 25 playing football in South Dakota. As this article from 2006 summarizes, Allison went to South Dakota to try and build a better life for himself and his words about his time at Kentucky and his hope for the future are haunting to read today:

The pivotal moment, Allison said, came the morning after the arrest in Lexington, when at 7 a.m. he sat in his Kentucky sweat suit across from coach Tubby Smith and then-athletic director C.M. Newton.

A DUI conviction would make him the first athlete affected by Kentucky’s zero-tolerance drinking-and-driving policy, instituted by Newton after the alcohol-related traffic death of a football player. Kentucky’s rule meant loss of scholarship, loss of athletic eligibility and de facto banishment from UK (a policy that was later drastically eased).

Smith was saying the rule would be followed to the letter.

Allison’s face fell in his arms on Smith’s desk.

“Oh, please, pleeeease,” he sobbed. “Isn’t there anything we can do? Oh, God, I’m so sorry. I’m so sorry.”

Allison said Smith, who declined to comment for this article, told Allison he was sorry but didn’t say much more.

Allison looked up from his arms at the men who held his fate in their hands and thought, I’m lost.….

In the end, Allison said, what is important now is that he becomes a better provider for himself and his family. That means, at the very least, getting his degree.

Unlike his days at Kentucky, where it was, “almost all about sports and trying to make it to the NBA,” now he cherishes the little things: walking with textbooks on a tree-lined street through the pretty campus, sliding into a classroom chair and learning “everything I can.”

“I may not live at “the Lodge’ (the plush basketball dorms at Kentucky),” he said, “but I do like “the Mansion’ (the wooden house he shares with Bowman).

“Plus, there’s really no place to get in trouble around here. Everybody here is so good.”

Allison says that no matter what, he’s staying out of trouble, and if the NFL doesn’t work out he would like to teach at Robinson High and, he said with a huge grin, “Coach the Knights.”

He said he will always cherish “Nowhere,” South Dakota, where he has been embraced like a son, a friend, and, yes, a grandpa.

“The best part,” Allison said, “Is that I know this place can help me go somewhere.

“Somewhere good.”

In 2005, the Turkey Hunter and I took a road trip across the country for three weeks and strangely ended up for a night in Vermillion, South Dakota, the home of the college that Allison then attended. When we mentioned we were from Kentucky, a young man there told us about Allison attending the school and we were shocked to learn of his new life. We talked about Allison’s troubles in Lexington and asked how he was now doing. The student said that there were bumps in the road, but that Allison was a popular figure on campus. He then added, “Desmond is always in the middle of things, but I can’t help but like him. He just makes you really want to pull for him to do well.” Personally, I always felt the same way. Even though his time at UK was troubled, I always hoped he would eventually get it turned around. For a time it looked like that might happen, which made the news today particularly sad.

After his time in South Dakota, Allison disappeared for a bit from our radar and I was recently asked on the radio show what had become of him. We don’t know how he ended up in Columbus or what he was doing at the time of the shooting. Unfortunately however, it is clear that in the end, he was unable to avoid the trouble that seemed to follow his life at nearly every turn. He was 31 years old. 355914882

Article written by Matt Jones

44 Comments for Desmond Allison (1979-2011)

  1. TT
    9:37 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    man I hate to hear about this. RIP Desmond BBN will always remember you.

  2. Jessdogky
    9:38 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    I always thought he could have been a great player. RIP.

  3. McNulty's Jameson
    9:43 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink


  4. Chris
    9:52 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    The zero tolerance policy was bullshit from the beginning, a total knee jerk reaction to a tragedy that tied Tubby’s hands on helping kids that made some mistakes. Allison had no business being booted from the team and his life might have ended up quite differently with some of the same discipline that Cal gave DeAndre Liggins. I hope somewhere C.M. Newton is physically ill over this.

  5. UK Jerry
    9:53 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    A sad day for DA s family. He will b missed greatly by the BBN also. R. I. P.

  6. Anthonyeppsdrivingschool
    10:01 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    Another cool story behind allison… I have always heard he went one on one with mcgrady in high school and torched him.

  7. Chuck
    10:07 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    That was the silliest policy ever enacted, although I understood why UK triec to take that stance. It should have been more like three strikes and your out I always rooted for Desmond because I liked him as a player and that he was from Florida made me relish it a bit more.

    What a tragedy for his family.
    Rest in Peace Desmond

  8. Tris
    10:11 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    A damn shame…I was privileged to play with Des….always thought highly of him and we were good mates in school. R.I.P. Mate, maybe you will finally get some peace!

  9. Tris
    10:12 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    A damn shame…I was privileged to play with Des….always thought highly of him and we were good mates in school. R.I.P. Mate, maybe you will finally get some peace…..

  10. Bilhelm
    10:15 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    Nice write up. But I’m really sorry it had to be written. RIP

  11. Keeneland Guru
    10:18 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    #4…AMEN!! Amazing how UK had that policy then years later hires a guy who has had 2 previous DUI”s and pays him more than two previous coaches before him ever made!!! It literally makes me sick. You CANNOT give up on kids!!!! They are kids and make mistakes!!!

  12. TT
    10:25 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    11. nice post totally agree

  13. Lex07
    10:39 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    Saint Newton is the most overrated AD in the history of college sports. He wasn’t bad, but damn was he overrated.

  14. mashburnfan1
    10:43 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    Just saw the news here in Columbus and it said his uncle witnessed the shooting so that may shed light on what he was doing in town, has family there. Said there was a fight over women and there was a fight between a few men, including Desmond, and then gun shots and he was shot. SAD SAD story. Will catch the 11pm news to see if more is said. No suspect as of now.

  15. tdogg4033011
    10:52 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    R.I.P DA

  16. Chris
    10:58 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    If you consider Jason Watts shock probation for killing someone, I’m not sure that Allison’s punishment wasn’t the more severe of the two compared to their respective crimes. I know this all sounds like sour grapes now, but this hits hard as someone who was in a class or two with him. Just a normal college kid doing normal college kid stupid shit, paying way more than he should’ve for a mistake. I feel horrible for his family.

  17. Sexington
    11:01 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    God bless him and his family. We are all truly one family now and forever and no matter what wearing that blue and white you will always be something special to us no matter what circumstances unfold or time spent in Kentucky when you lose a wildcat it is tragic.

    Rest in Peace

  18. thenamerobdigity
    11:06 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    Kid should have been given a second chance. For most college football teams it is a one game suspension. Not putting fault on anyone, but it would be an interesting debate on whether that decision was a major turning point for the worse for him.

  19. catfan68
    11:24 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    Matt, nice job of handling this tragic subject. Desmond R.I.P You will be missed.

  20. mashburnfan1
    11:31 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    News at 11 said Desmond was 31 years old with 5 kids. Also another man was shot during this and is in hospital, no word on his condition. Fight started because some woman was wearing some guys hat, don’t know if it was Desmond hat or another guy there, and another woman did not like it. The other woman went and got 3 relatives who confronted Desmond and the others, words were exchanged then fighting then gun shots, as many as 10 shots. The lady that got the 3 relatives is being interviewed by police. No suspects yet but you have to think they will get the killer.

  21. blitzedanddazed
    11:32 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    Desmond made some mistakes while at UK, just like like every other student. My he rest in peace.

  22. Wow
    11:51 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    RIP Des Allison. Prayers to his family and friends left to grieve a loss they shouldn’t be enduring right now.
    It’s trivial in the grand scheme of things; but this is a site for UK fans, and Matt’s post brings up a good point about that era of UK hoops. Aside from hiring Billy Clyde, the worst decision made by the over-seers of UK b-ball in the last 15 years was putting the guys at (what was then called) University Commons the year Wildcat Lodge was renovated. That was in the middle of my time at UK, and remember seeing those guys out on their respective patios drinking, smoking and partying as college kids do. Most college kids don’t have that kind of weight and scrutiny though, and Team Turmoil was born. This coincided with bad decision #2, giving the keys to Saul Smith to run the point. But I digress.
    Allison made his mistakes, and unfortunately paid the price of an arguably over-reaching penalty. But he put his best foot forward and did his thing at South Dakota. His story ends far too soon.

  23. Booyakasha!
    11:54 pm July 25, 2011 Permalink

    Desmond made more mistakes than everyone will ever know. The zero tolerance policy was bad, but he was on the wrong track on a high speed train. I live in Tampa and know is old boys. May he rest in peace.

  24. PCN
    12:08 am July 26, 2011 Permalink

    I dated him many years ago, we left on bad terms. I never thought in a million years that he and I would not be able to mend our friendship. I am very saddened because I know he wanted nothing more than to be a great athlete, father and friend. To know that he was tragically and instantly taken away is hard to grasp. I am so sorry to hear of his death in such a senseless way. I would only wish the best for him and hope he could be successful to provide for his family. He will definately not be forgotten. Always loved. My prayers and condolenscences go to his family and friends..

  25. Destiny Williams
    12:36 am July 26, 2011 Permalink

    I can’t believe (Dez) Desmonds gone. I went to the University of South Dakota with him. It seems like yesterday. Me & some of the girls would always go cook @ Desmonds house for the football guys. We would chill, listen to music, & Desmond would always have something funny to say or do. He always talked about his kids. He loved his kids even more than football & basketball. My regards go out to his family & mainly his kids. May God Be With You All @ your time of need. My prayers go to you all. Destiny

  26. Brackish boy
    1:00 am July 26, 2011 Permalink

    Senseless. It hurt to hear this.

  27. blueblooded
    2:17 am July 26, 2011 Permalink

    @13. You’re an idiot. What Newton did for the major, sports, minor sports, fund raising, & general respect for our athletic department is unmatched by most any AD from ANY school.

    Keep in mind that they just buried a football player & this was right after many other high profile incidents & I’m sure others we don’t even know about. Did he & the school over react and institute a bad policy… absolutely. However, drug & alcohol problems with athletes were getting out of control & they didn’t want another athlete or some other innocent bystander hurt or killed again because they took no action.

    Fortunately, they changed the policy again. While the poor rule hurt Allison, Desmond has to (& aparently did) take responsibility for his actions too. It’s a really sad situation for a very likeable (albeit troubled) kid. However, for you to make out Newton as some kind a villain is completely wrong.

  28. Buckets
    3:34 am July 26, 2011 Permalink

    I always thought the rule after the Watts crash was BS and way too heavy handed. They’re kids. They make mistakes. Don’t take away their scholarship. How about trying to help them? Suspend them, sure, but don’t take away everything. Who knows how his life might have turned out had he been suspended for a year but kept in school. I wonder Of course, there may have been many instances before the DUI that we just don’t know about, resulting in him getting the boot altogether. Maybe the DUI was the last straw. Very sad. RIP, Desmond.

  29. test
    3:40 am July 26, 2011 Permalink


  30. Anthony
    4:24 am July 26, 2011 Permalink

    Matt, this is totally sad. Thoughts and prayers go out to his family. The most troubling part is the story with CM Newton and Tubby. We all can at points in our life when we did something bad that we plead to the people to have mercy on us. Whatever the situation maybe. It’s just a shame that Allison had to falter to the consequences of what happened with the former UK Football player that was killed. After reading this, it’s just sad that no one tried to reach out to him or try to help him get his life in order. Life is so short, and we should be thankful for everyday we get, and not put ourselves in a bad situation.

  31. Anthony
    4:27 am July 26, 2011 Permalink

    Meant to say we can all point to moments in our lives* also meant: may be*

  32. Coach Tony Spencer
    7:11 am July 26, 2011 Permalink

    I was fortunate to be one of Desmond’s coaches at the University of South Dakota in his short time there. It was literally yesterday when I was just sharing a Desmond story with someone and we shared a laugh just to learn a couple of hours later that he had passed. Desmond was without a doubt a first class person in the Vermillion community that was loved by his teammates, faculty and staff. He is without a doubt one of the most giving people that I have been around in my 16 years as a coach and the joy that he brought to the fans was never matched. One day after a game the football players used to sign autographs for the fans. This particular day, the game was over and all of the players were showered, and long gone. I had stuck around the office for about an hour and a half after the game and came back to look and see if there was anyone left in the stadium and there was. It was Desmond Allison. He was still in his uniform talking to fans, signing autographs and taking pictures after everyone had left. That is the type of man that Desmond was. A very generous person with a heart unmatched. Desmond is and always will be a part of the University of South Dakota family. We were fortunate to know him as a person, as a football player, as a father, but mainly as a friend. We will miss you Dez. R.I.P. #8

  33. repairthisthing
    7:47 am July 26, 2011 Permalink

    Did that article from 2006 say ‘grandpa’? Was he really a grandpa at age 27?? I know it’s physically possible, but holy cow….

  34. Old Man
    8:42 am July 26, 2011 Permalink

    Just terrible news. I always felt he got an incredibly raw deal from UK.

    Also, Allison wasn’t a part of “Team Turmoil” (2002). That was the team that had Rashard Carruth and was 2 seasons after Allison was kicked out.

  35. Madtex
    9:33 am July 26, 2011 Permalink

    Is it true that Desmond was trying to break up with his girlfriend and she got pissed and called three of her cousins who then shot him dead?

  36. Madtex
    9:35 am July 26, 2011 Permalink

    Is it true that Desemond was trying to break up with his girl friend and she got really pissed and called three of her cousins up who then shot him dead?

  37. GummyBear
    9:40 am July 26, 2011 Permalink

    Also, Allison wasn’t a part of “Team Turmoil” (2002). That was the team that had Rashard Carruth and was 2 seasons after Allison was kicked out.

    34.. He’s says that he was part of the group that BECAME team turmoil.

  38. Rocky Harrison
    9:45 am July 26, 2011 Permalink

    Des, will always be a hell of an athlete he was bright star where there was darkness. He is loved and will be missed was a great friend and i will tell my kids about him so that his life wasnt in vein. He will live on in us and i was blessed to know him.

  39. TheVig
    9:52 am July 26, 2011 Permalink

    #4 & #11 – Yet think of the “kids” that this zero tolerance policy might have woken up. We will never know who might have righted their ship after seeing these rules enforced.

    Then to blame C.M. Newton for Desmond Allison getting shot 10+ years later is beyond comprehension.

    Where’s individual resonsiblity in your book #4?

    Hiring a coach years after his DUI’s is not an apples to apples comparison. The University wasn’t one to say people can do no wrong. Just one that enforced the rules on the books, and when earned, gives people a second chance.

    I have no problem with either scenario you two described.

  40. Beezer
    10:34 am July 26, 2011 Permalink

    I was at a wedding in the Colulmbus area last year, and A hotel bus picked me up from the airport. It was just me and the driver in the bus, and I happened to have a UF Law shirt on. The bus driver and I started talking and she eventually noted how she isn’t a UF fan. I proceeded to tell her that I’m not either, and I’m a huge Kentucky fan because I went to UK for undergrad. “Oh, yea?”, she said. “My nephew played there, I’m a huge UK fan!, you may not remember him.” I said “Try me, I know every player for at least the last 20 years.” “Desmond Allison”. “Hell yes, I remember him, he was one of my favorite players! How is he doing?”

    We then talked for about 30 minutes about Desmond and his troubles at UK, as well as Marvin Stone’s troubles. She also talked about how great a person Tayshaun was and how much Desmond loved him (was in his wedding party). She was just a super nice lady and she talked about how Desmond was really trying to get everything in his life together.

  41. Russell Brown
    3:41 pm July 26, 2011 Permalink


  42. goyotes
    4:01 pm July 26, 2011 Permalink

    The following is a link to blog regarding Desmond’s untimely death writter by the former SID and the University of South Dakota:

  43. James
    4:02 pm July 26, 2011 Permalink

    My Nephew is originally from Columbus,Moved to florida with his mother. He is not a stranger here This is home, and he will be truly missed. FYI They have the girl and her friends, cousins or whatever they are to her. God is God, so now it’s time to let God be God…. RIP NEPHEW. Uncle Bub!

  44. rick
    4:06 pm July 26, 2011 Permalink

    Reminds me of the tradgedy of Eric Manuel. He was the real victim of the Sutton Emery mail package debacle. I pray for the next troubled UK, Tampa, anywhere young man that thier story would have a better outcome. GBB, RIP Desmond.