If nothing else, the new version of Chris Allen is refreshed.
The Iowa State guard is eager and well-rested, the result of sitting out the 2010-11 season after a transfer from Michigan State. He spent an entire year getting to know his teammates, including three other transfers in his same situation, Royce White (from Minnesota), Chris Babb (Penn State) and Anthony Booker (Southern Illinois).
Allen brought his new team a load of college experience -- 14 career NCAA Tournament games -- as well as a renewed joy in the sport he loves. He looks more like the high-scoring star he was at Meadowcreek these days, rather than the spot-up shooter he was for much of his Michigan State career.
"It's great here, I love it," said Allen, who has helped the Cyclones to a 12-4 start this season. "I have a lot more freedom here. I love having the freedom to just play and not think. I feel like playing here I get to showcase more of my passing, my ballhandling, my shooting off the dribble.
"At Michigan State, it was more coming off screens or spotting up for open looks."
The freedom has been fun, but it didn't come easily. After three seasons under Tom Izzo's stout discipline, he said it took some time to adjust to the playing style of popular Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg.
"Really the biggest adjustment was mentally," Allen said. "I haven't been able to play so freely in a long time. Every little mistake I was making, I'd get discouraged at first (at Iowa State). Coming from Michigan State, if you made one little mistake, you might be coming out. It was just a mind thing to get over."
It wasn't the only major change for him.
Allen, for the first time since his time at Meadowcreek, is a point guard. The 6-foot-3, 205-pounder spent the bulk of his Michigan State career on the wing, but he's been needed at the point for an Iowa State team that had won seven straight games before losing Wednesday night to Missouri.
He hasn't disappointed in the new role, averaging 12.7 points (second on the team) and 2.8 assists. He has more assists (45) than turnovers (34), solidifying the position since moving over from shooting guard to replace a struggling teammate earlier in the season.
"It's coming along," the 23-year-old said of his point guard duties. "I'm starting to work the kinks out."
Iowa State, which finished 16-16 last season with the four talented transfers watching from the stands, has higher hopes this season. The loss to Mizzou followed two impressive wins to start Big 12 play over Texas and Texas A&M.
Allen topped the 1,000-point mark for his career in the win over Texas A&M, though he scored his first 817 at Michigan State. He averaged 11.7 points in three NCAA Tournament games as a Spartan freshman, then averaged 8.4 and 8.2 points the next two seasons for back-to-back Final Four teams, including a 2008-09 NCAA runner-up team.
That's another strength Allen brought to his new team -- he knows what it takes to win in the postseason. He's hoping to lead the Cyclones to the same kind of success and reach the fourth NCAA Tournament of his career.
"I feel like we can go far this season," said Allen, whose team takes 10th-ranked Kansas today. "If we keep playing hard like this, the sky's the limit."
Mill Creek grad Tia Williams, a junior guard at Limestone College, had 17 points and eight rebounds last weekend in a 65-50 win over Queens University of Charlotte. She also had a team-high five steals. ... Vanderbilt's Tiffany Clarke, a junior from Norcross, matched a season high with 19 points and grabbed 10 rebounds last weekend in the 24th-ranked Commodores' 68-52 victory over Ole Miss. ... Greater Atlanta Christian grad Trent Wiedeman had team highs of 15 points and nine rebounds Thursday night, but College of Charleston was still upset by UNC-Greensboro.
Heinicke named nation's top freshman
Taylor Heinicke's huge freshman season at Old Dominion has earned the Collins Hill grad a prominent award.
Heinicke was named the National Freshman Performer of the Year by the College Football Performance Awards after leading the Monarchs to a 10-3 record and into the second round of the FCS Playoffs.
After taking over as starter on Oct. 1, Heinicke completed 211 of 307 passes for 2,385 yards and 25 touchdowns. He threw just one interception (on a Hail Mary), rushed for four scores and averaged 40.3 rushing yards per game.
He threw five touchdown passes in each of Old Dominion's playoff games against Norfolk State and Georgia Southern.
Gwinnett Grads is a column that runs on Saturdays spotlighting achievements of past Gwinnett standouts. Coaches and parents are urged to send suggestions via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.