PULLEN ONE OF THE BEST EVER AT KSU

MANHATTAN, Kan. - It's been an emotional ride for Jacob Pullen in the last five months as the Wildcat guard started his year as a preseason All-American, was later suspended, went through a period of lethargic play, and has now finished by averaging better than 25 points in his last seven games.

Pullen has played the Wildcats into the NCAA Tournament next week, but before that, has business to take care of at the Big 12 Championships. That's winning three games in three days.

As to where Jacob Pullen stands in the lineup of the best of the best K-Staters of all time is a topic for debate, but for certain, there will be a day when the "No. 0" jersey hangs from the Bramlage Coliseum rafters.

To such a notion, the Wildcat senior guard says, "Nah, I haven't thought about that, or the scoring thing. My teammates keep me updated on how close I am on the scoring thing, but I tell them that I don't want to know … I don't want to be jinxed. It's just a blessing to be mentioned with some of those names … Mitch Richmond, Bob Boozer, Rolando Blackman. Sure, it would be great if that call would come someday telling me my jersey is going up. Hopefully I'll have kids by that time to share the moment with them. It would be a memorable moment."

Pullen has provided a Wildcat resume of memorable moments never to be forgotten:

• Most games ever played at 132 … and counting
• Most 3-pointers at 289 … and counting
• Most steals at 207 … and counting
• Most double-figure games at 102 … and counting
• Has been a part of 94 wins … one shy of the record held by Luis Colon and Chris Merriewether
• Second most career points at 2,054 … and counting

That point count is just 61 shy of Mike Evans's record of 2,115 points, and the total ranks fifth in Big 12 Conference history only behind Lacedarius Dunn, Andre Emmett, Jarrius Jackson and Nick Collison.

Admitting that he knows little about Evans, Pullen did say, "If I am fortunate enough to break his record it will be something that I will cherish for the rest of my life because I'm sure he was a great player. His number (No. 12) is up in the rafters."

Not only will Pullen be remembered as a scorer, but he's also in the company of only Kevin Durant as players who averaged 20 points a game and were members of the Big 12's All-Defensive team.

"That is one of the things I take pride in. I have been All-Big 12 the last two years, but what made me happiest was making the Big 12 Defensive Team two years in a row," said Pullen.

Laughing, he added, "All the way through high school, and even as a freshman in college, I was a horrible defender. Honestly, I was horrible. I found the easiest way out of everything. If it wasn't a chance for a clean steal, I didn't try. I'd get out of the way and start coasting back to play offense. My high school coach would be shocked to see me play defense today, and my family is shocked. I just didn't understand how important it was until Frank pounded it into my head."

Pullen's play has never been better than it is today as the Wildcats enter Big 12 Championship play at Kansas City's Sprint Center.

He's averaging 25.5 points in the last six games on 45 percent shooting and has scored at least 20 points in 12 of the last 17 games. He scored 38 against Kansas, and followed that game with 27 pointers against Oklahoma and Nebraska.

But the season for Pullen hasn't been one of just baskets made and fanfare. He, and the Wildcat team, struggled early in the Big 12 season when the Wildcats were 1-4 to open Big 12 play. And, it was just weeks before that when Pullen was suspended for three games.

"That was the toughest thing I've been through in my four years of college. The competitor that I am, when I can't play basketball it hurts. That hurt, and hearing the "breaking news" comments people announced on television hurt a lot. It hurt a lot," said Pullen. "It was a difficult time. I knew I had done wrong. I knew that I let down a lot of people."

But it was some of those same people that propped him back up, and encouraged him to finish the season strong, which included family members after the Wildcats lost 74-66 at Colorado on Jan. 12.

"They wanted me to realize that I was a good player and all that people said I was, but they also wanted me to realize that it was getting late and if I didn't pick up my game it was going to be over and we wouldn't have accomplished anything … there would be nothing to remember me for.

"My brothers are my biggest critics. My entire life every time I did something good, they were there to tell me what I did wrong. It always made me work harder because in my mind I had to prove them wrong and it made me work harder," Pullen said. "

Even last year in the NCAA Tournament, they joked with me telling me that Jimmer (Fredette of BYU) was better than you. They always play devil's advocate with me to make me work harder."

It was also about this time of the season that Pullen made the comment that if K-State had to go to the NIT, he would not play. Today, the Wildcat guard said he really would have played in the NIT, but he's not taking back his words.

"No, not really. I understand that it caused a lot of attention, but I think my team took it as a challenge and they responded well to it. I think all of us stepped up and took our game to the next level," said Pullen. "I think they knew how passionate I was about not playing in it, and they responded."

Respond, the Wildcats did, finishing regular season play at 22-9 and owning a spot in the NCAA Tournament.

But before that tournament, Pullen wants to win the one this week in Kansas City.

"I've never won a ring and they give rings for the tournament," said Pullen. "As a team, to give Kansas State University the Big 12 championship is what we want to do. That's three wins in three days."


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