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Pullens Set for Jacob's Homecoming

By Mark Janssen

Jerome Pullen can only laugh when asked what the last couple of days have been like.

"The list grows every day," Pullen said. "There are 10 new ones coming, then 10 more, then 20 more. I'm not sure when it will end. I'm sure the list is at 100 or more by now."

The list is that of family and friends that will be attending Saturday's 3 p.m., tipoff between Kansas State and Loyola-Chicago at the Joseph J. Gentile Center to see Jacob Pullen's homecoming game to the Chicago-area.

"I'm excited, but my wife and his siblings (Katrina, 32; Jennifer, 27; and Joseph, 24) are going crazy," Jerome laughed. "Some of my wife's family is driving up from Georgia, and we have people driving down from Detroit."

And then there are just old friends.

"An old neighbor e-mailed us that she remembers seeing Jacob as a little boy and someone who used to help her little girls cross the street," said Pullen. "There are just all kinds of people who remember him as a kid and now they're watching him on TV. Now, they'll be able to watch him in person. It's created quite a buzz."

Pullen added that both grandparents would also be on hand with the grandmothers promising to supply him with his favorites - peach cobbler and banana pudding - at some point during the stay.

Chuckling, Pullen said, "I think my wife even called Andy (Assaley, K-State's Director of Basketball Operations), to see if he could stay at the house, but he had to say, 'No Charlotte, it doesn't work that way.' "

Pullen describes Jacob's hometown of Maywood as one of around 30,000 people located 15 miles west of Chicago, or, "... about a 20 or 30 minute drive on a good day."

Pullen prepped at Proviso East High School, which has such NBA basketball names as Doc Rivers, Jim Brewer, Michael Finley and Dee Brown on its all-time-roster.

Some, Jerome says, are starting to put Jacob's name on that list.

"Yeah, I would say some think he's a hero around here because of the TV exposure he's received," said Jerome of his son who is a preseason All-American. "Someone at the grocery store the other day said they remembered that little boy running around on a ball diamond kicking up dirt and getting in line to get treats after the game. Now they're watching him on TV."

Jerome said his son was a pretty good Little League baseball player in his pre-teen years, but once his older brother started focusing on basketball, " ... in order for Jake to be included in what his brother was going to do, he had to transition into basketball."

It was at last year's NCAA Sweet 16/Elite Eight rounds in Salt Lake City, Utah, that Pullen's parents marveled at the new personality their son had taken on as the "heart and soul," in coach Frank Martin's words, of the Wildcat basketball team.

"I find that interesting because his mom is rather docile, and I'm a quiet person, so I'm not sure where that intensity came from," Jerome said. "But Jake always wanted to be the best. If he was better than every kid in his neighborhood, he wanted me to drive him to a neighborhood where there was better competition."

Chuckling dad Pullen said, "Basketball was always Jake's passion. It was the one thing that motivated him. If he wasn't doing what he should be in school, or if he was messing up at home, all you had to do is say, 'OK, no basketball,' and the problem would be corrected in a hurry."

From his days as a Pirate at Proviso East High there's always been a 12-o'clock rule whether it's been a good game or a stinker. When the clock strikes 12, the high or the low of the game is forgotten.

That rule was most recently put into place when K-State lost to Duke, 82-68, and Pullen had just gone 1-of-12 from the field and scored four points.

"That was tougher for me to watch than him to play," laughed dad Pullen. "After the game we looked at each other and he said, 'I really had a bad day.' But I reminded him that he hadn't had one of those for quite some time, and reminded him of the '12 rule' and to put it behind him."

The Pullens have already seen their son play against Virginia Tech and Presbyterian in Manhattan, Gonzaga and Duke in Kansas City, and after Saturday's 'home' game for them, they will travel to Sunrise, Fla., for the game against the Florida Gators on Dec. 18, and will be back in Kansas City on Dec. 21 for the UNLV game.

Jerome works for AT&T, while Charlotte, ironically, works in the computer department at Loyola-Chicago. 

"She'll be in purple on Saturday, and so will several of her friends that work at the school," Jerome promised.

Last spring mom Pullen said of her son's experience at K-State, "It's just been a joy. You know, you sit at a table enjoying a meal and you tell your children to be the best that they can be. And now to see Jacob, and to hear Jacob, say that he wants to be the best player at K-State, and the best person he can be is so very special to me."

Even with the "Fear The Beard" beard, mom?

"I (pause), I (pause), I (laughter), I'm getting used to it, (pause) I think," Charlotte said, but with Jerome in the background shaking his head no. Giggling, she added, "He's really a handsome kid without the beard."

So, does that mean he's not handsome with the beard, mom?

"I (silence), I (silence), I'll just say that I'm no longer going to sneak back into Manhattan and shave it off while he's sleeping," Charlotte said while at the Salt Lake City event. "K-Staters wouldn't like that."

To Jerome, however, that beard "... is kind of cool. I've never been able to grow one, so I'm a little jealous."