Former Monessen star Charel Allen comes full circle, joins Notre Dame coaching staff

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Thursday, July 21, 2022 | 2:10 AM


After five years on the West Coast, Charel Allen is returning to her alma mater.

Allen, the Monessen native and second all-time leading scorer in WPIAL history, was named an assistant coach at Notre Dame on Wednesday.

As a player with the Fighting Irish from 2004-08, Allen was a two-time All-American, two-time first-team All-Big East selection and served as team captain in her final two seasons. Allen averaged team bests 17.0 points and 6.2 rebounds as a junior then led the Irish to the Sweet 16 during her senior year, scoring a career-high 35 points in a second-round overtime win over Oklahoma — the second-best Irish scoring performance in the NCAA Tournament.

“Excited to welcome Charel back to the Notre Dame family,” Fighting Irish coach Niele Ivey said in a news release. “Charel brings a high-level mentality that leads to great player development. She possesses experience at every level: collegiately, professionally and internationally. She’s a rising star in this industry. She’s extremely passionate and loyal and understands what it takes to excel as a student-athlete at Notre Dame.”

Allen was the first player in Notre Dame history to amass 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 200 assists and 200 steals in her career. She still ranks 15th on the all-time scoring list with 1,566 points.

“When Coquese (Washington) took the job at Rutgers, I reached out to Coach Niele. Coming back to Notre Dame was something that was always on my radar, and I think I was on their radar, too,” Allen said. “When I said yes to Notre Dame at 16 years old, it was just me being that: a teenager thinking I knew everything about life. Now that I’m older, I understand how important that decision was, and I now have the chance to pay homage to the university that I called home.

“I’m grateful for the opportunity to work alongside such a powerful leader in Niele and her staff.”

Allen has hit the ground running with the Fighting Irish, interviewing between flights on her way to Richmond on the recruiting trail. She’ll be headed to Minnesota, Orlando and New Orleans, as well.

“It’s very exciting, and I’m so happy to get right to it,” Allen said. “It’s our evaluation period with all these AAU tournaments going on. I’m just excited to hit the ground running and be able to offer players the same opportunity I had when I chose Notre Dame.”

Allen, who will celebrate her birthday Saturday, was selected in the third round of the 2008 WNBA Draft by the Sacramento Monarchs, helping the team advance to the ‘08 WNBA Playoffs.

In 2009, Allen made the leap overseas and played professionally in Bulgaria for eight seasons. Allen was a five-time Bulgarian League champion in addition to being named a four-time All-Bulgarian League first-team selection, with player of the year honors in 2014.

In the summer of 2017, Allen made the shift to the coaching ranks and joined the staff at Cal State Fullerton. She was then promoted to associate head coach with the Titans in May 2021.

“The wins and losses weren’t where we wanted to be, but we had a lot of growth during my time there,” Allen said. “I love that I’m able to bring the knowledge I have about the game back to Notre Dame. I’ve learned a lot as a player here, in the WNBA, overseas and now five years as a coach.”

Another upside to the move is that when Allen feels she needs to come home to the Mon Valley, it’s a much shorter drive.

“I’ve been away for so long,” she said. “Going to Notre Dame in 2004, then to Sacramento, overseas. I came back and went to California. Just being able to drive six hours and I’m back in Monessen, I know my family and I appreciate that so much. I’m getting older, but so are my parents, siblings and grandparents. Getting the chance to spend holidays and some birthdays with family is going to be so great.”

Allen’s return to the Fighting Irish brings her life full circle. Not bad for a decision made at just 16 years old. It shows that young people can make good decisions for themselves as commitments to colleges continue to happen at younger ages.

“We’ve seen it growing with all these AAU tournaments and travel sports,” she said. “Young people can make the right decisions for themselves. When I committed, I made the ultimate decision. If you have the right people around you giving you the right information, the right decisions can be made. At the end of the day, you can only play at one school.”

Allen, who played for Major Corley at Monessen and legendary Irish coach Muffet McGraw, said she continues to talk to all of her coaches from time to time. She carries their teachings with her every day while still learning on the job.

“Rest in peace to Tuffy,” Allen said. “I still talk to all my coaches through the years. They’re always so supportive. It’s funny because I’ll always ask them, ‘Was I this kind of player?’ or ‘Did I used to do this?’ They’ve seen a lot in their years. Players and the game continues to evolve, so I’m always going to continue learning.

“But having this opportunity to come full circle, it’s truly a dream come true for me.”

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