Thunder Grizzlies BasketballStillwater, Okla., is more than an hour’s drive from the closest NBA city, and when Tony Allen visits the Sooner State during the season, he usually has to worry about important things like preparing to defend Kevin Durant.

Allen’s visits to Oklahoma State, his alma mater, have therefore been few and far between since he graduated in 2004. He is aware of some of the Cowboys’ current standout players — he refers to Marcus Smart, the star point guard who surprised many by announcing he would return for his sophomore season, as “that Smart kid” — but his exposure to the current team is largely limited to catching highlights on YouTube.

With the 10th anniversary of the Cowboys’ 2004 Final Four team coming up, though, Allen sounds like he wants to end his separation from OSU.

“I definitely want to be involved,” Allen told The Oklahoman on a visit back to Stillwater for his basketball camp. “This is where I got my career off the ground at, and I can’t say any more good words about this great place.”

Despite his involvement in a 2005 nightclub shooting — in which he was not a suspect — Allen has grown into one of the best stories in sports. He came out of tough circumstances in Chicago, paid his dues for two years at junior college and played two years at Oklahoma State while earning a degree in education. Since joining the NBA, he has embraced the tasks many players shun — defending, hustling, interacting with fans.

He deserved every bit of the four-year, $20 million contract he received from the Grizzlies this offseason, assuring “The Grindfather” will remain with a team whose toughness and grit he personifies. Meanwhile, maybe he can get back to a few ‘Pokes games in his down time.