Proviso East's Next Great Guard Arrives

In this report Scott Powers interviews one of the top point guards in the state of Illinois for the Class of 2007 - Proviso East Point guard Jacob Pullen. Pullen has learned much from the great guards that preceded him at East. Proviso East coach David Chatman tells us about his star point guard...

Jacob Pullen doesn't try and emulate just one former Proviso East guard.

From watching Dee Brown, he observed when to dish for the assist and when to score. From Shannon Brown, he learned to lead by example. Charles Richardson Jr. was the perfect defender to take notes on. Mickey Perry demonstrated how to be relaxed on the court while still playing hard. Jeremiah Wise could defend anybody and was always preaching the importance of listening to the coaches.

Pullen, a 6-1 junior, never had a favorite among the five current Division I guards. He just knew each possessed something that made them an elite player, and that's what he absorbed.

It's no wonder that, with that basketball education, an abundance of athleticism and a competitive nature that's been compared to Dee Brown's, Pullen is pegged to follow in the footsteps of his mentors.

"He's going to be the next guard to come out and represent Proviso East High School," said Pirates coach David Chatman.

Chatman has been saying that for a year now. He's been convinced of Pullen's fate ever since he noticed a resemblance of Dee Brown's competitiveness in Pullen last year as a sophomore.

First, it was competitiveness, then Pullen started showing Chatman his other skills. He went up against Perry, now a freshman at Wisconsin, and Wise, a freshman at Indiana State, and held his own. Chatman had enough confidence in Pullen to use him as a sixth man and later in the year as the point guard allowing the other guards more opportunity to score.

With both of the stars being seniors last year, Pullen understood it was on his shoulders to pick up where they left off on both ends of the floor.

"I knew I had to score more with Mickey leaving and would have to guard the other team's best player with Jeremiah leaving," Pullen said. "I knew I would have to step in and play a bigger role."

Defensively, Pullen isn't there yet. Offensively, he's getting close.

Pullen displayed what he's capable of doing on the offensive end in the Pirates' win over highly ranked St. Joseph in the St. Charles East tournament title game.

He put up a game-high 28 points on 11-of-18 shooting from the field and was 6-for-9 from 3-point range.

He also displayed his court vision and unselfishness. He made sure to get the ball to Illinois-recruit Brian Carlwell and in the final seconds found teammate Drew Ankum for the buzzer-beating, game-winning layup.

Carlwell, a 6-10 senior, knew from just talking to Pullen last year he was going to enjoy playing with him.

"He told me as a sophomore, ‘I can't wait to play with you and get you the ball,'" Carlwell said. "I don't know anyone who has a better little man-big man combo like ours. I'm not trying to be cocky, but I haven't seen one."

Pullen will back that up. But what Pullen has isn't necessarily cockiness, he does have a certain swagger and confidence about him.

Sitting in Proviso East's coaches office on a recent afternoon, Pullen listened to Chatman talk about him.

Chatman compared Pullen to a young Dee Brown but said he wasn't as quick. The comment caught Pullen's attention.

"You're saying I'm not as quick as Dee Brown," Pullen asked.

Chatman replied, "Heck no. You've seen Dee?"

"Give me a few months," Pullen said.

There's no doubt Pullen wants to become like Brown and the other great guards that preceded him. It's one of the reasons he gained interest in basketball.

Baseball had always been his favorite sport growing up. His father had even coached Shannon Brown in the sport. It was when he started going to watch the Browns and Richardson Jr. play at Proviso East that Pullen started to lean toward hoops.

"You should see the look on little Charles' face when he was deciding who to pass the ball to," Pullen said. "He had All-Americans on both wings."

Like Dee Brown, Pullen could score 30 or more a night if he wanted to, but his unselfishness and craving to win makes him pass the ball and do whatever is necessary to come out on top.

Scouts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye find Pullen similar to someone farther in the past. "This may go back a long way – remember, we are old guys – but he reminds us a lot of former Proviso East great Rickey Wilson, who started with Glenn "Doc" Rivers at Proviso East," the Schmidts said. "He also reminds us even more of former Proviso East guard Kenny Davis, who could shoot the lights out from Bellwood to Maywood!"

"Plus, Pullen is bigger and stronger than Davis, but not quite the flashy ball handler. However, in terms of clutch-shooting mentality, Pullen brought back fond memories of Davis."

Pullen doesn't feel the pressure of everyone expecting him to be the next great one.

"It's only pressure if it's in the mind," said Pullen, who attended Proviso West as a freshman. "When you think about the pressure, you play bad most of the time. I don't think about it. I just go out and play."

He knows all about the history. He's met Doc Rivers and studied the trophy case with Michael Finley, Donnie Boyce, Sherrell Ford and the others.

He understands what it means to be included in the same sentence as them. While he likes the sound of it, he also knows he's not worthy just yet.

"I don't mind hearing that," said Pullen, who has received interest from DePaul and Illinois. "It just makes me want to practice that much harder. I know what made them that good was practicing harder than everybody."

It's that attitude that makes Chatman even more confident about Pullen's future.

"Just keep watching out for him," Chatman said. "He's just begun to show the pieces of how great he can be as a basketball player. He's going to be a very special player."

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