Kansas State University

Pullen's case is building for K-State greatness

Michael Beasley will always be the most celebrated basketballer to play for Frank Martin.

The NBA star was a scoring machine during his one Kansas State season and contended for national player of the year honors as a freshman. Along with Bill Walker, another big-time recruit, he guided K-State back to the NCAA Tournament and helped it beat Southern California while there.

But before you go spending your Christmas bonus on extra Beasley memorabilia, understand this: He may not turn out to be the most significant player in his own recruiting class.

That honor could end up going to Jacob Pullen.

Is he more skilled than Beasley? Of course not. Few on the planet are. But pound for pound, the junior guard is making more of an impact at K-State than any other recruit of the Martin era.

He may not have the incredible talents of a one-and-done college player, but Pullen has embraced the Wildcats' leadership responsibilities and is an extension of Martin on the court. When he talks, teammates listen.

And instead of giving the Wildcats one fabulous season, he will give them four good years.

If his senior season is anything like his junior year has been so far — averaging nearly 20 points and 3.5 assists through 13 games — he will go down as one of the K-State greats.

Behind him, No. 12 K-State (12-1) is off to its best start in recent years and has achieved its highest ranking in more than 20 years. An NCAA Tournament resume is being built, and confidence is high.

Pullen's rise to the top has been remarkable. The 20-year-old has always been younger than classmates, and came to K-State with a baby face. As a freshman, Martin treated him like a toddler, screaming and scolding errors.

But Pullen came out of that experience stronger, and now sports a trademark beard. He learned how to lead with actions and words. He is by far K-State's most outspoken player.

So what does he think about his impressive season? Not much. Ask how he's able to score so many points so often — he's been at 10 or above in every game — and he credits his teammates.

"It all started in the summer when we decided to come in and work," Pullen said. "We knew how good we wanted to be, and we knew how good everybody said Kansas and Texas and everyone else in our conference were going to be. I don't think it's anybody doing anything that they weren't supposed to do. It's just everybody working hard and us getting what we deserve."

Ask if this record-setting K-State team is better than the one that featured Beasley and Walker, he hesitates.

"Mike and Bill gonna see this?" he asked to a roomful of laughter. "Yeah, we're better."