Pullen leads Wildcats with hard work, ability to handle pressure

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Jacob Pullen is another guard from Chicago making his presence felt on a Division I basketball court, and many would argue, the definition of a gamer.

On the biggest of stages, Pullen plays his best.

During the 2007-08 season against Oklahoma in his first Big 12 game, Pullen had 6 assists and only one turnover, with none of his passes more important than the one to Michael Beasley for the game winner.

He also played a big role in the ending of “The Streak.” Without Pullen’s 20 points, which included a perfect night at the free throw line, KU might have defeated the Wildcats once again.

But head coach Frank Martin said fans should not expect anything different from the player who wears number zero in honor of NBA star Gilbert Arenas, who garnered the nickname Agent Zero because of his game-winning heroics.

Pullen grew up a fan of Lute Olson’s Arizona squads due to their guards, including Arenas and other NBA guards like Mike Bibby, Jason Terry and Jason Gardner.

Pullen is a combo guard, with Gardner’s speed and Terry’s shooting stroke. Martin compares him to a player a little closer to Pullen’s home — Dee Brown, the former Illinois guard who led the Illini to the NCAA national championship game in 2005.

“He can play the point, relies on speed and has the ability to shoot the basketball. Plus, [Pullen and Brown] are the same size,” Martin said.

Martin talked about Pullen’s ability to handle the responsibility of playing point guard early in his freshman year, and added that being next to Denis Clemente has aided Pullen in his development.

“He is ahead of schedule of where we thought he’d be,” Martin said.

The coach’s praise might come as a surprise to some fans, as Pullen and Martin’s sideline conservations have become things of Internet lore. But Pullen said Martin is just hard on his point guards.

Most students of basketball agree that the point guard needs to be an extension of the coach on the floor, but Pullen does not have the fiery personality of Martin. However, he and Martin do share a competitive passion and desire to never give up.

Pullen said achieving consistency has been the biggest adjustment and struggle since high school.

“Coming from Chicago, once you gain respect, people are scared to play you and they just give you 20 points,” Pullen said. “In the Big 12, you have to prove yourself on a night basis.”

Luckily for Pullen, Dee Brown and Shannon Brown (no relation) came back to Chicago during the summer to help Pullen learn more tricks of the basketball.

Coming from a big city like Chicago, Pullen said it was an adjustment coming to a smaller city like Manhattan, but said it allows him to focus on schoolwork.

“In the city, there are too many ways to find trouble,” Pullen said.

After going home to Chicago to work out during the summer, Pullen will return to the K-State campus in August, looking to lead the Wildcats to postseason play for the third consecutive year.

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