Puleo points to future, ready to work hard

For 12 years, Angela Puleo took great pleasure in striking out the boys. A pitcher on a boy's baseball team into her early teens, she followed in her dad's footsteps for as long as she could. Papa Charlie pitched for the Mets, Reds and Braves, but his younger daughter had a decision to make. She turned her focus on a second sport with a passion that he also helped develop since she was five.

Post high school, post AAU, and now post Georgia, Angela has brought her skills to Vanderbilt, the new home court where she hopes to earn a ring – or two – for her new team. 

Angela (never Angie) surprised SEC fans this spring with the announcement of her transfer to Vanderbilt from rival Georgia. Not long following news of the departures of freshman Tia Gibbs and sophomore Chanel Chisholm to other programs, Angela's transfer developed quickly and smoothly. When the release became final, and Angela had selected Vanderbilt as her number one choice, Coach Melanie Balcomb phoned to offer the spot.  

The 5'9" junior guard will red shirt this season after starting 60 games, averaging 8.2 ppg as a freshman and 7.4 ppg as a sophomore at Georgia. She also sank 103 threes during that time. 

Recruited by the ‘Dores initially, she chose the Lady Bulldogs to be further away from home to develop on her own.  

"Georgia helped me grow as a person. I have no regrets or anything bad to say about UGA. At the time I thought it would be a good fit for me. You live and learn and I've grown a lot over the past few years." 

Putting in the practices and work of a player but not participating in games or travel with the team during the season will be worth the price, Angela said. 

"It will be hard not being able to play but you can make it into a positive or negative, and I'm just going to try to get better over this year and be ready to play next year." 

Meanwhile, the Commodores' plays, system and team roles will become second nature for the 2010-11 season. The appeal of playing with the ‘Dores is Angela's belief that hard work will be rewarded.  

"Obviously I played against Vanderbilt. They don't have the No. 1 recruiting class in the nation, but they work hard and they get it done. You can tell that they're a hard working group of girls, that they respect Coach Balcomb and who wouldn't want to be a part of that? I saw that, and that's why Vanderbilt was my first choice coming out of Georgia. I just thought it would be neat to able to work hard and earn it and be successful at the same time."  

Angela said the transition has been smooth but the transfer was difficult for some to understand. 

"I have a lot of friends there. Athens was a great town, but in the end you have to do what you feel is best for you. I felt like making a change would be best for me and that Vanderbilt would be a great fit for me basketball wise. Sometimes people have grief, but I just needed a change for me personally. You have to be happy. You're not going to make the people around you better if you're not happy."   

From a public university of 43,000 to a private campus of 6,000 or so, the transition sits well with the east Tennessee native whose Maryville roots grew to Nashville where she has a sister, aunt, cousin and more family.  

"I have felt comfortable with the team since day one," she says of her welcome. "It's nice because there are freshman here, too so I'm not the only new person. So we're all getting to know each other. It's cool because you know of them because you play them three times a year, but it's awesome to really get to know them. Before, you just judge them on their basketball ability, but now it's more than that. It's like a family, it's awesome." 

As an excited Angela settles in to the new environment and routine, the future is all that concerns her. 

"I'm just happy to be here and get a fresh start. It's going to be a good thing."

Angela Puleo (Courtesy Univ. of Georgia)

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