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September 27, 2020

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A conversation with ONU's defensive stopper

Austin Allemeier, senior on men's basketball team

Austin Allemeier simply couldn't earn a stop.

During a defensive drill at Indiana Tech, Allemeier, a true freshman at the time, was tasked with holding teammate Edmond Early Jr. scoreless. If Allemeier were to fail in this endeavor, the drill would continue — Allemeier versus Early. 

"He would kill me every single day," Allemeier said.

After an understandably frustrating day where Allemeier couldn't get the stop he needed, an internal switch was flipped. Allemeier knew he needed to improve as a defender if he was ever going to survive in the waters of collegiate basketball.

"I finally just said, 'I need to be able to get stops if I'm ever going to play,'" Allemeier said. "I just kind of made that a focus, as I got stronger and older, that I really need to defend."

Fast forward four years, and Allemeier is a completely different player than the one he was at Indiana Tech. He's one of Ohio Northern's senior leaders, a starter, and a defensive specialist charged with defending the opponent's best offensive weapon. 

Elida HS graduate
Allemeier started out in basketball so early he can't remember. His earliest memories of the sport are pictures his family owns, which show Allemeier being held up and dropping a ball through a hoop. 

A few years later, and Allemeier took his talents to a local park near his house in Elida. He competed against neighborhood kids, always punching above his weight class.

"I was usually the youngest there, and the older kids would sometimes let me play when I annoyed them enough," Allemeier said. "That made me a lot better."

Allemeier attended Elida High School and was immediately thrust onto a team loaded with talent. He didn't play much as a freshman but dressed for a state runner-up team that featured players that would later don basketball jerseys at Purdue and Akron. 

Allemeier was a student of the game as a freshman and learned how to best carve out a niche on a team with an abundance of talent. When it came time to be a sophomore, junior and senior, Allemeier knew what was expected of him and how he could benefit the team. He would simply make open shots as much of the defense was focused on the future Division I stars.

Allemeier thrived in his role and this gave him some college suitors of his own. He elected to attend Indiana Tech, but not a year went by before he looked for the next landing spot. 

Allemeier contacted ONU standout Ryan Bruns — the two had played summer ball together — and asked if Northern would be an option. One thing led to another and Rich Bensman — who had just been elevated from assistant coach to head coach — would love nothing more than to have Allemeier on the team. 

"I really liked him out of high school," Bensman said. "He was a local kid that played really hard. And he's got a little bite to him."

That 'bite,' would soon pay off for ONU. 

A great on-ball defender
Once again, Allemeier found himself on a team with numerous high-level players. He knew, from his time at high school, that he had to find a role, but this one would be a little different. 

The Polar Bears had enough scoring with Bruns and Nate Burger. Allemeier — harkening back to his Indiana Tech days and that drill against Early — elected to make himself into Northern's lock-down defender. 

"He has been one of the best on-ball defenders I've coached in 26 years, high school or college," Bensman said. "… His value to us defensively is anybody that scores 20 points per game offensively."

Allemeier doesn't jump off the page. He's 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, but he has that 'bite.' He knows how to use his frame and quickness to frustrate opposing guards. Whether it's a smaller, quicker guard or a bigger more-skilled guard, Allemeier embraces every challenge. 

"I go into every game usually guarding the other team's best guard, and my goal is to hold them under their average," Allemeier said. "… I definitely take pride in it."

Allemeier has also made himself into a better leader both on and off the floor. Not only is he locking up the foe's best guard, but he also instructing, complementing and critiquing an ONU team filled with young, budding talent. 

"These younger guys, they all have a great work ethic," Allemeier said. "I get them in the gym with me a lot, and I'm just trying to lead by example."

Thankful for the ONU program
Allemeier has seen quite a bit in his basketball career. He has been on talent-rich rosters where he received plenty of open looks, and all he had to do was knock down shots. He has been on teams that had plenty of offensive firepower that needed a defensive stopper.

He now finds himself on a team that hasn't experienced the amount of success they want, and Allemeier has needed to keep a positive outlook and lead through adversity. Simply put, there's not much Allemeier hasn't experienced in the game of basketball, and Allemeier couldn't be more appreciative of what the sport has meant to him.

"It has meant everything," Allemeier said. "It has made my college experience what it is. It has given me my best friends. It has probably taught me the best lessons. It provides a great work ethic and has shaped me into who I am.

"It has done everything for me, and I'm very thankful for the program."