February 1, 2008

Pullen settling into role with Wildcats

While Jerome Pullen stood near the front window of an Aggieville business Thursday afternoon -- "Yeah, he had 20 points and four assists," he said into his cell phone -- a smiling Charlotte rehashed her latest experience in Manhattan. Seems every day brings something exciting and new for the parents of Kansas State freshman Jacob Pullen. But less than 24 hours after the point guard came off the bench to score a career-high 20 points against No. 2 Kansas, the proud parents didn't expect this.

"We were just at a Shell gas station and they had a sign up that said, 'Jake Pullen for Pres,'" Charlotte said. "We went in and the attendant said, 'That's my favorite player.'"

"He's mine, too," Charlotte replied. "He's my son."

The grin never leaves her face in recalling the story.

"And all of the sudden," she continues, "some lady customers in there start hugging me. I'm still getting used to the small-town intimacy."

Sooner or later, the Chicago natives will get used to it. After all, there's a lot of love for Jacob Pullen these days.

Jerome and Charlotte arrived in Manhattan last Saturday and saw Jacob come off the bench and put up 13 points and four assists without committing a turnover in a 82-57 rout against Iowa State. They're traveling to see Big 12-leader No. 22 K-State, 15-4 overall and 5-0 in the league, face Missouri, 12-9 and 2-4, at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Columbia. They seem to love the Little Apple. They're certain to rack-up those frequent-flier miles over the next four years.

"I would tell anyone to come to Manhattan," Jerome said. "It's a beautiful community. People are really nice and friendly. It's a growing town. Every time we come back, something else has popped up."

Well, on Wednesday night, K-State coach Frank Martin asked Pullen to step up.

Prior to tipoff, Martin told Pullen, "It's a big-boy game out there today."

Here's what Pullen did: The 6-foot-1, 185-pounder and one of the Wildcats' wildly talented freshmen, came off the bench and spent 28 minutes answering a key question as to whether the Wildcats' backcourt could handle the likes of senior Russell Robinson, junior Mario Chalmers and sophomore Sherron Collins.

Pullen eclipsed his previous best of 19 points against Central Florida and Rider by helping K-State shoot down previously undefeated Kansas, 84-75. He shot 4 for 9 from the floor, including 2 for 5 on 3-pointers. He drained all 10 of his free throw attempts. He had four assists and committed exactly one turnover against one of the strongest backcourts in the Big 12.

"That was really impressive," Jerome said. "But you know what? Jake has always been that way. He's always liked the big lights and big games. When I talked to him before the game, I asked him if he had any butterflies. He said, 'No, dad. I'm just ready to play.' Occasionally back home, he would get butterflies. But not on this night."

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