By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Frank Martin said the penalty for the deed had been served and that Jacob Pullen will be in the lineup tonight when 11-3 K-State plays host to 2-12 Savannah State in a 7 p.m., tipoff in Bramlage Coliseum.
"If he was a freshman coming off this situation, I would be concerned," said Martin of Pullen's three-game suspension for breaking NCAA rules for receipt of impermissible benefits on the purchase of clothing from a Manhattan department store. "He's been around. He's a four-year starter, so I'm not concerned with how he will respond."
K-State went 2-1 without Pullen in the lineup with wins over UMKC and North Florida, to go with a narrow loss to UNLV.
As for how the rest of the team rallied from within with the loss of the team's lone two seniors in Pullen and Curtis Kelly, who is in the middle of a six-game suspension, Martin said, "This is a team game. It's about us growing and becoming more united. It's been about guys learning to trust their teammate and understanding that individually they have no chance to win."
Martin added, "Without Jake and Curtis around, each freshman had to understand they had to open their mouth and become more assertive."
After watching Friday's win over North Florida from the end of the bench, Pullen issued an apology to his teammates, coaches and fans for his "... lapse in judgment," and admitted to "... full responsibility for my actions. It was a bad decision, but at the same time I have to deal with it and move forward. It is a long season and we have a bright future ahead of us for the rest of this season."
Pullen said it was the first time he had ever missed a basketball game since his freshman year in high school when he did not meet eligibility requirements.
Pullen wasn't with the team at all for the first two games of the suspension, which included missing the UNLV game in the Sprint Center in Kansas City.
"I was back here in Manhattan, glued to a TV, cheering like I have never cheered before because I saw the effort and I saw how hard they worked," said Pullen. "For them not knowing what was going on and not knowing the situation and what the outcome was going to be had to be hard on them. I expected to play and they all expected me to play. For me not to show up to the game, I am not sure if it hurt them or not, but I know it had to be tough."
While saying it was equally tough facing coach Frank Martin and his parents, Pullen said, "They both understood that I made a mistake and they understood that things like that happen. They also understood that I really did not try to (make a mistake). It is just something that I have to put past me. I cannot live in the past. I cannot live on what happened that day. We have a young team and we have to move forward. The guys in the locker room did a great job of not letting what happened affect them. They went out and played their hearts out."
During that time, Pullen was only able to practice, which he says "... has made me drive to another level. I kind of feel like Michael Vick in some ways. I feel like I've got something to prove again." I feel like people doubt what I've done and feel like I shouldn't be in the places I've been in."
Kelly is in the middle of his six-game suspension, which will also include the Savannah State game, plus the first two Big 12 games at Oklahoma State and at home with Colorado.
The lengths of Pullen's and Kelly's suspensions were based on guidelines established by the NCAA for extra-benefit violations. Generally, if the value of the benefit received is between $100 and $300, the student-athlete must sit out 10 percent of the team's regularly-scheduled games in that season. For an amount between $300 and $500, the penalty is 20 percent, and for benefits greater than $500 a student-athlete must miss 30 percent of the team's games.