Dakarai Allen (left) and D'Erryl Williams of Sacramento Sheldon have signed letters of intent to play for San Diego State.
A pre-dawn wakeup call. Sacramento in the rearview mirror. A seven-hour drive ahead.
Then, on Wednesday afternoon, this from the Twitter files of Dakarai Allen:
@illest_Legend: Finally in sd feels like home lol
The San Diego State basketball signee had been here, inside the gymnasium at Torrey Pines High, before. Only a year ago, he was playing in the 22nd annual Torrey Pines Holiday Classic.
“That’s when I really fell in love with the city,” Allen said.
Wednesday night, he returned to San Diego like a conquering warrior. The 6-foot-5 forward led all scorers with 25 points as his Sacramento Sheldon team opened another Holiday Classic experience with a 72-39 rout of Cantwell Sacred Heart. Allen followed with 24 points Thursday afternoon as Sheldon defeated Mundelein (Ill.) 82-68 to advance to the National Division semifinals.
“I don’t know if I’m ready for ‘The Show’ yet,” Allen said, referencing SDSU’s famously rowdy student section. Only a smattering of fans clad in Aztecs gear had been on hand for this contest.
Still, doubts about next fall have been allayed by a familiar presence. Just a few feet away stood teammate, best friend and fellow SDSU signee D’Erryl Williams. The longtime sparring partners traded jabs while discussing their prospects as future roommates.
“He snores,” Allen said.
“This is a little secret,” Williams said, “but he sleeps with his eyes open sometimes.”
Williams, a 6-3 combo guard, had been limited by a balky ankle and foul trouble, finishing with six points in a frustrating performance. But he beamed as he recounted how he and Allen came to choose the Aztecs.
“We always talked about going to the same school,” Williams said. “We basically dreamed of it.”
Allen, rated a four-star prospect by most recruiting services, committed to SDSU in September, picking the Aztecs over a host of Pac-12 schools. A month later, Williams gave his own pledge just hours after touring campus and witnessing “Madness on the Mesa.” The three-star recruit had received a gentle nudge from his friend.
“Once he got an offer from San Diego State,” Allen said, “I told him he had no option but to come here.”
On Nov. 14, Allen and Williams signed their national letters of intent in a ceremony at Sheldon High. Sitting at the same table, Huskies teammate Darin Johnson, another highly recruited senior, signed with Washington. SDSU had been a finalist.
“Darin felt Washington was a good fit, which it is,” Williams said. “He made a good decision too. We all support him.”
On Tuesday night, Allen and Williams watched as the Aztecs nearly upset Arizona on a last-second layup attempt by Chase Tapley. They grimaced as Wildcats pogo stick Nick Johnson seemingly sprang out of nowhere for the game-saving block.
Tapley, who played at Sacramento High, and SDSU teammate Xavier Thames, who prepped at nearby Pleasant Grove High, have been like “big brothers” to Sheldon’s future Aztecs, Allen said.
“Everything they do is something we want to do,” Allen said. “We want to follow in their footsteps.”
Which might explain where they found themselves late Wednesday night, hunkering down on burritos and carne asada fries at popular SDSU eatery Trujillo’s Taco Shop — hundreds of miles away from one home, just steps away from the next.