The clock is ticking on Charel Allen’s basketball career.
Beating the clock and opponents has been something Allen has enjoyed almost her entire life on the court.
This time, though, she’s beat – physically.
While Allen pursues another championship with her Montana 2003 Bulgarian professional women’s basketball team, her playing career is winding down.
“This is it for me,” said Allen, a 2003 Monessen High School graduate and one of the greatest female basketball players from Pennsylvania. “It’s time for me to hang up my shoes – to retire from playing.”
Allen has carved out a wonderful professional career overseas, playing nine years – including stops in Turkey, Israel and a short stint in Greece, before landing in Bulgaria.
Her team won a Bulgarian Cup and overall championship last year.
In all, Allen has been part of five Cup-winning teams and two overall championships.
“I kind of knew I would stop playing at age 30,’’ said Allen, who will turn 31 this summer. “This season has been rough on my body and my knees are giving me more trouble.”
She also has her sights set on a collegiate coaching career and thinks it is time to pursue that goal.
“I am looking forward to a career path in coaching,” she said.
“I want to and look forward to coaching at the collegiate level. I look forward to the transition from being a player to being a coach. I have always had a basketball in my hand and I will always pick up a basketball. My focus is just going to change.”
Count on that change being a positive one.
Allen has been an achiever on the basketball court since she was a little girl playing against the boys in her home town.
She helped bring Monessen PIAA and WPIAL championships in 2004, the magical moments that defined her outstanding career at the school.
Allen scored 3,110 points for the Greyhounds. She was a two-time Associated Press Class A Player of the Year in the state. Allen was a four-time Street & Smith magazine honorable mention All-American and the Greyhounds’ record in her four seasons was 100-19.
She helped lead Monessen to the WPIAL Class A championship game in her freshman and junior seasons.
Monessen was 29-2 her senior season, when she averaged 26.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 5.1 steals with a 37.8 three-point field goal percentage. The Greyhounds defeated Serra Catholic in the WPIAL finals and routed Nativity BVM, 70-48, in the state championship at Hershey’s Giant Center.
“I still think about those times,” Allen said of her high school days. “It’s been so long ago. “I do reflect on it and really think about it when I get back to Monessen each year.
“I’ve tried to follow the school through Facebook posts and some other ways, but the time difference really hinders that.”
Allen moved on to Notre Dame, where she enjoyed a stellar career and remains one of the top players in the program’s storied history.
Allen became the first Notre Dame women’s player to have 1,500 points (1,566), 500 rebounds (656), 200 assists (239) and 200 steals (206). She was a two-time honorable mention All-American for the Fighting Irish and a two-time first-team All-Big East Conference selection.
While she and the Irish fell short of the NCAA championship she desired, Allen overcame a catastrophic knee injury during her freshman season in an NCAA tournament loss to Arizona State to leave an indelible mark at South Bend and impress professional scouts and organizations.
She was a third-round pick (43rd overall) in the 2008 WNBA Draft by the now-defunct Sacramento Monarchs. She played six games for them.
After being released by the Monarchs, Allen was signed in 2010 by the San Antonio Silver Stars. She played there for a month before being waived May 13.
“As nice of a career as I had at Notre Dame, I didn’t think I would play professional basketball,” Allen said. “I had great junior and senior seasons at Notre Dame. And to now have played nine seasons. . . that’s a pretty long career.”
Allen recently enjoyed a visit from family members, two brothers and her mother, Rotina Johnson, who resides in Monessen with her husband, Lee Johnson.
Allen, who expects to return to Monessen next month, has come to grips with this being her last season playing professional basketball. She has discussed her future with some Notre Dame alums, others associated with Notre Dame basketball who are coaching at universities throughout the United States including Wisconsin’s women’s coach Jonathan Tsipis, who was an assistant to legendary and Hall of Fame Irish coach Muffet McGraw. Allen also said she has contacts at Penn State and Yale.
“This season has been very stressful for me,” Allen said. “I’ve had some injuries. Mentally, I am drained. We lost the Cup and I thought we should have won. It was frustrating.
“It’s more difficult to recover from 15-hour bus rides. I’m ready to retire. My preference is to make a career of coaching and that will be my focus from here out.”
John Sacco writes a bi-weekly column about local sports history for the Observer-Reporter.