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Kenny Atkinson on Jarrett Allen: ‘We’re talking about a modern 5 man in this league’

Atkinson doesn’t want to confuse Allen for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, but he was gushing over his his rookie’s potential.

NBA: Draft Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Nets coach Kenny Atkinson doesn’t want to call his rookie big man the next Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. That would set unreasonably high expectations for a young player who hasn’t played a single NBA minute yet.

But Atkinson is “definitely excited about” Jarrett Allen, the 19-year-old near seven-footer out of Texas with a 7’5” wingspan, who is expected to give both Timofey Mozgov and Tyler Zeller a run for their money — and minutes — at the center position.

“I think you’re seeing a guy his athletic ability is pretty impressive,” Atkinson said during his preseason press conference at the HSS Training Center on Tuesday. “How fast he is up and down the court, how quick he is off his feet. How well he moves. We’re talking about a modern five man in this league. He kind of fits the bill.

“The last thing about him, I just like his demeanor. He’s a quiet, competitive guy and we’re excited to see him get on the court.”

The Nets didn’t have their pick, but they got their man anyway.

Brooklyn drafted Allen 22nd overall in this summer’s draft with the pick they recouped from Washington in the Bojan Bogdanovic trade. But a source told NetsDaily that the Nets originally had the athletic big man in the top 10 of their draft board.

While Zach Collins, Justin Patton and Bam Adebayo — big men drafted ahead of Allen — showed out in Summer League, Brooklyn’s center nursed a hip injury he sustained during pre-draft workouts. Now the Nets hope Allen uses the preseason to remind fans how dominant he was in college.

In his lone season at Texas, Allen averaged 13.4 points, 8.5 rebounds, and 1.5 blocks for a Longhorns team that missed the NCAA Tournament after finishing 11-22 (4-14 in the Big 12) under head coach Shaka Smart. If he would have stayed for a second season at Texas, DraftExpress projected he could have gone as high as No. 8 in the 2018 NBA Draft.

Allen is by no means a finished product — rookies rarely are, if ever — and Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks didn’t rule out the possibility of sending him to the G League to get some run with the Long Island Nets. But for the young big man, who has already introduced himself to the community by hosting a haircut day for kids at Levels Barbershop just blocks away from the Barclays Center, Brooklyn is a perfect match.

“I see just greatness,” he said during his July introductory press conference. “Having a team and organization that focuses on development, it’s just good. Personally I need somebody to help me develop and having them around me is going to help me a lot.”