FEATURE: High-Scoring Fullerton Guards Leaving a ‘Huge Legacy’

Khalil Ahmad (14) and Kyle Allman Jr. Credit Matt Brown
Khalil Ahmad (14) and Kyle Allman Jr. Credit Matt Brown
By Bill Sheehan
Kyle Allman, Jr. and Khalil Ahmad are leaving their mark at Cal State Fullerton.
The senior guards are the highest-scoring duo in the school's history. They rank in the top 10 in several statistical categories and have earned multiple all-Big West Conference honors.
They appear to be most proud, however, of helping turn around the fortunes of Titan men's basketball. After the team finished 3-13 in conference during their freshman year, Allman and Ahmad were instrumental in Fullerton notching three straight 10-win seasons in Big West play. The Titans won the conference tournament championship last year, gaining an NCAA playoff berth.
"It's been a big change from when we got here," said the 6-foot-4 Ahmad, who is from nearby Corona. "It's been like night and day. We were last in the league that first year."
"It feels good to think we have been a key for the turnaround," said 6-foot-3 Allman from Brooklyn, New York.
The two hope to build on their legacy this week as the third-seeded Titans (14-16, 10-6 in conference) take on sixth-seed UC Davis (11-19, 7-9) in a Big West Tournament opener Thursday at Honda Center in Anaheim. Tipoff is at 2:30 p.m.
The Titans have stumbled coming into the tournament, losing three of their last four games. But Fullerton head coach Dedrique Taylor said the Titans will be ready.
"When you get to the tournament, it is super-unique. Whoever can execute their game plan early and consistently will have the advantage," he said.
Fullerton is looking for its pair of backcourt scorers to get the team off and running against UC Davis.
Allman, last year's Big West Tournament MVP, is averaging 17.8 points and 2.1 assists this season. He was just named to the all-conference first team for the second year in a row, the first Titan to accomplish this feat since Scott Cutley did it in 2007 and 2008. Allman ranks fifth in Titan career scoring with 1,619 points.
Ahmad also is averaging 17.8 points, along with 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals. He earned second-team all-conference honors for the second straight year. Ahmad was the 2016 Big West Freshman of the Year, and he is fourth among all-time Titan scorers with 1,682 points.
Coach hails skill sets of duo
"They are leaving a huge legacy," said Taylor. "They both present a unique offensive package and are two of the best guards in the conference. They can shoot from range, pull up, and get to the rim and finish."
Teammate Jackson Rowe, the team's leading rebounder and third-leading scorer, said they have distinctive styles.
"Khalil is bigger, so he can play as a point guard, a shooting guard and a small forward. He is more of a pure shooter and scores in spurts. Kyle can play both guard positions and can score too. And he is also a good facilitator," said Rowe, a junior forward from Toronto, Canada.
Allman said Ahmad's success as a freshman motivated him to improve his game.
"He started off running the show. That was a turning point for me. I had to catch up with him. He came in with confidence. I had to gain that confidence," he said.
Allman began working out relentlessly during his summers, spending long hours honing his game.
"When I first came here, I was doing whatever I need to get on the floor. Now I can showcase my whole game, which has evolved over the years. I couldn't shoot and do things off the drive in my first two years like I can now. I can catch and shoot, make tough shots. The transition game is my favorite – it's an easy two points," he said.
Taylor, who said one of Allman's strengths is his cat-like quickness, saluted him for his strong work ethic. "Kyle was unheralded when he arrived, but he pushed and propelled himself," said Taylor. "He put in an extraordinary amount of time, working morning, day and night on his game."
The coach said Ahmad also continued to fine-tune his skills. "Khalil has just continued to work on his skills. It's been great to watch his game evolve."
Ahmad participated last summer in the Drew League, a pro-am competition in South Los Angeles. "Being able to test myself with NBA and overseas guys was a great learning experience," he said.
Working together pays dividends
The two agree that they complement each other on the court.
"We can score the ball really well. I play off him, and he plays off me," said Allman, 21. "When we play together, it's hard to key one of us. And Jackson [Rowe] gives us an inside presence. When he plays well, we automatically play better because he opens up space."
Ahmad concurs. "It's hard to key on us. We are adaptable and can attack teams.
"Our games are pretty similar, except for the fact that I like shooting threes and he likes shooting two. He likes shooting with his toes on the line," the 22-year-old Ahmad joked.
The tandem are very close off the court too.
"Literally, we are like brothers. We do everything together. We work out against each other all the time and eat afterward. We even plan to take naps at the same time," said Ahmad, 22. "It's been great to have a running mate to go through things with, both in good and bad times."
Allman said their friendship will continue on. "At the end of the day, it's bigger than basketball. Even after we leave here, we'll talk every day. We'll still be bros way beyond Fullerton."
The native New Yorker will serve an internship with Los Angeles-based Aardvark Letterpress after the Titan basketball season ends. He will graduate this spring with a bachelor's degree in communications with an advertising concentration.
He wants to give professional basketball a try, either in the U.S. or overseas. Allman is active on Twitter and Instagram and envisions a career in advertising. "I want to work for different brands. My dream job is to be an advertiser for Jordan Brand. I have the personality to do that type of job," said Allman, who plans to keep California as his base.
Ahmad will graduate this summer with a bachelor's degree in African-American studies. He also aims to play basketball professionally. "I'm open to playing anywhere," he said, as long as he can make a decent living.
Ultimately, he would like to stay close to the game, either as a coach or a trainer. "I would like to mentor young people and help them with the mental side of the game."
Both student-athletes said Fullerton is ready to defend its Big West Tournament championship.
"In those 10 conference wins, we showed how we can play together. We got away from that in the losses," said Allman. "We have to do the same things that got us to the tournament championship last year."
Ahmad said it's been a little more difficult having a target on their backs. "Previously, people were looking at you as an underdog. There's more pressure now, but it's nothing we can't handle. We hold ourselves to a high standard as a team."
Their teammate Rowe gives the pair a lot of credit for that. "They have great offensive skills and have pushed everyone in practice to try to elevate their games. They helped us raise the standard of the program. And now we try to meet that standard every day."

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