Mr. Reliable. That’s how most Missouri State University-West Plains Grizzly Basketball fans remember Allen Phillips. No matter how the rest of the team was playing during his two years in a Grizzly uniform, the 6 ft., 6 in. small forward from Little Rock, Ark., always produced.
“He was very consistent, always steady. He came to play every game,” long-time Grizzly color broadcaster Dean Smith recalled. “He wasn’t the most gifted player, but he played 100 percent every time.”
“We always looked to Allen when we needed a boost,” teammate and fellow Grizzly Hall of Famer Eric Judd added. “He was a great player, an extremely hard worker, especially in the off season. That’s what made him as good as he was.”
Phillips developed his go-to reputation at McClellan High School in Little Rock, Ark., where he earned all-state, all-metro and all-conference honors. He brought those skills to the Grizzlies in fall 1996 and quickly showed his teammates and Grizzly fans they could count on him in clutch situations when he hit a key three-point shot late in the second half of a Nov. 9 game against Southeastern Community College at the West Plains Civic Center. The shot gave the Grizzlies the points they needed to stay ahead of the Blackhawks for the win.
Mr. Reliable also turned in a memorable performance in the first round of the Las Vegas Junior College Hoop Invitational Jan. 1, 1998, when he led the Grizzlies to a key win over Casper (Wyo.) Community College with 27 points and six rebounds. By the end of the three-day event, he had earned all-tournament team honors with 49 points and 20 rebounds.
None of his previous efforts, however, could overshadow the clutch steal he made late in the 1998 Region 16 Championship game against the Grizzlies’ arch rival, Three Rivers Community College. After grabbing the ball, Phillips found himself falling out of bounds, but he maintained his concentration long enough to dish the ball to teammate Willie Gross, who was fouled on the play. Gross’ ensuing free throws – set up by Phillips’ steal – helped seal the Grizzlies’ first ever Region 16 Championship trophy.
The 1997-98 championship season is one of Phillips’ best memories as a Grizzly. “We broke so many records as a team that season,” he recalled. “We had a lot of people on that team who brought a lot of character to the floor.”
Phillips finished his two-year Grizzly career at the top of two statistical categories: most points in a season (608 in 1997-98) and best scoring average in a season (18.4 in 1997-98). He also was named first-team All-Region 16 his sophomore season. In addition, he played a key role in two of the Grizzlies’ most successful seasons by helping the team record its first ever wins over Three Rivers his freshman year and nearly upsetting the No. 1 junior college team, Indian Hills Community College, in 1998.
Phillips received his Associate of Arts in General Studies degree from Missouri State-West Plains in May 1998 and transferred to Missouri State University in Springfield where he continued to excel on the Bears basketball team. During his junior year, he helped lead the Bears to a 22-11 season record and a berth in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) National Tournament, where they reached the Sweet 16 before being ousted by Duke. In that Sweet 16 game, Phillips proved once again that he was the go-to guy, scoring 16 points and grabbing four rebounds against the nation’s No. 1 team. His efforts earned him the Chevrolet Player of the Game honors for the Bears.
“As a kid, you dream about playing in such a game, but you never really believe it will happen,” Phillips said. “But in that moment, I felt really good. I wasn’t nervous, and I felt really prepared to face them. I really believe my time in West Plains helped me prepare for that stage.”
During his senior year, Phillips served as a team captain and helped lead the Bears to a 23-11 season record and a berth to the National Invitation Tournament. He finished his career fourth on the Bears’ all-time list for treys (112), three-point attempts (290), and three-point shooting percentage (.386) and was the team’s leading scorer his senior season with 13 points per game. He received Coors Player of the Week honors five times and was named Missouri State Coors Co-Player of the Year his senior year. He was named to the Missouri Valley Conference all-tournament team and was a second-team All-Missouri Valley Conference honoree his senior year, as well.
Phillips received his Bachelor of Science degree in Recreation and Leisure Therapy from Missouri State University in May 2002 and is currently working as a counselor at Sylvan Hills Middle School in Little Rock, Ark. He and his wife, Tara, were married in July 2007.
Calling it a “great honor,” Phillips said he is thrilled to be selected for the Grizzly Hall of Fame. “I gave Missouri State-West Plains everything I had. I gave 100 percent every time I stepped on the court, and I tried to represent the school and my family the best way I could. My coaches instilled discipline and a strong work ethic in me that has helped me both on and off the court, and my Adopt-a-Grizzly family, Lonnie and Anita Judd, really helped me by giving me a place to go and someone to talk to when I needed it.
“I’d like to say to the people of West Plains, thank you and continue what you are doing. You are appreciated. Continue supporting the Grizzly Basketball program and the players. You give them great encouragement to move on in their careers.”