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PULLENS EXPRESS APPRECIATION TOWARD K-STATE

By Mark Janssen

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Let me tell you about one of the most enjoyable, not to mention funniest, 30 minutes I've spent in a long time while in Tucson, Ariz., over the weekend.

Sitting in the far corner of the restaurant of the Hilton Hotel where the K-State team was staying were the Pullens, Jerome and Charlotte. They didn't know it at the time, but in six hours they would watch their son, Jacob, fill up the McKale Center baskets with 38 points, but they would also be watching their son play as a Wildcat for the final time.

The Chicago couple gazed out the window over the desert landscape of southern Arizona, laughing to fighting tears, as they told stories and reflected on the stellar four-year career of their son.

Each parent had received a telephone call from their own parents in the past hour, as Charlotte said, "To see how the baby was doing. Jacob's the youngest grandchild and that's how they refer to him ... the baby."

Allow me to lead your through our conversation.

SPORTS EXTRA: How tough was it to see your son sick in bed prior to Thursday's game? He openly admits to being a "mamma's boy," did you take care of him?

Charlotte: I poked my head in his room and checked on him for a few minutes.

Jerome: (Chuckling) Wait, wait, waitwaitwait. You were in there over four hours!

Charlotte: Okayyyy, I spent some time with him. I remember asking him what would happen if in his weakened state I cut off that scruffy beard. He said, "Mom, if you ever want to come back to the state of Kansas, that would be a bad idea." He said I'd have my picture on wanted posters in every post office in Kansas. I can't say that I like it (beard) yet, but I have learned to accept it.

SE: Let's backtrack to Senior Day a couple weeks ago ... how tough was that on mom and dad?

Jerome: Ohhh, don't ask that, she'll start crying.

Charolette: (Dabbing teary eyes) It was sad, yet made us so proud. It goes so fast. You have to live through it to know what it means to have thousands of fans chanting the name of your son. (Pause) Yes, I cried most of the day.

(Laughing) It was the first time that my parents had come to a game in Manhattan. My mom pointed to the student section and asked, "Is that the crazy section over there? Is that the way they really act?"

Jerome: I had my best friend come with me and when the students started doing that Wabash thing, he said, "I'm changing seats. I'm going over there. That looks like fun." My God Mother said, "I've never seen so much purple in all my life."

SE: To both of you, what are you going to miss most about coming to Manhattan and watching Jake play?

Jerome: I'll miss watching him play the game he loves, but more than that will be missing the camaraderie that Jacob has with the rest of the team. There's a love there that's real and tough to duplicate. He has a brother at home, but he has 15 other brothers who are his teammates. When players came in to check on him the other night (when he was sick), you could tell that was from the heart, and not just about winning a basketball game.

Charlotte: K-State's support for Jacob never changed. It was his home away from home. He was accepted in good and bad times for who he was.

SE: Did you ever expect this type of career for Jacob when it all started four years ago?

Jerome: No, no, no, no. What both of us wished for Jacob was the opportunity to play Division I basketball, and honestly, nothing more than that. We talked and he really thought he had earned the opportunity to play, but to look up four years later and see what has happened is just beyond our wildest dreams. With Jacob it's always been difficult because he's such a competitor. Even in the sixth and seventh grade he said, "Dad, I think I can do this." He finds a way. He's willed himself to great success.

SE: I have to ask you Charlotte, how would you describe Jacob's relationship with Coach Martin and the rest of the staff?

Charlotte:  Let it be clear, Jacob loves Frank, and even though at times it was a love-hate relationship, we are so appreciative of what Frank has done for our son. All of this would not have been possible without Frank. Jacob and Frank are a lot alike. They are both so competitive on the court and such tough people on the court, but off the court they're really pretty quiet and caring.

SE: Was there much family reaction when Jacob made the comment this season about not playing in the NIT?

Jerome: I'm in a meeting and I keep getting these calls from my wife. I finally excuse myself and step outside to call her. She says, "Did you hear what YOUR SON just said?" Well, when you hear YOUR SON, you know it isn't good. She said it was all over the radio and ESPN that he was NOT going to play in the NIT. She said, "What ... was ... YOUR SON ... thinking?"  (Laughter)

SE: Jake has said the scoring record doesn't mean much to him. Has he talked with you much about it?

Charlotte: I'm serious when I say this. Jacob wants to win basketball games. He would give up all those points for a Big 12 title.

Jerome: Jacob really wanted Bill (Walker) and Michael (Beasley) to stay an extra year because they had unfinished business. Had they returned, I'm sure they would have won a championship, but there wouldn't be any talk about a scoring record. That's how Jacob would have wanted it.

SE: Winning a championship really did seem important to him. Several times he said he had never won anything at any level, and he wanted a ring.

Charlotte: (Laughing) I have another one for you. When Jacob was a little boy watching the Final Four, he came running up to me and said, "I want one of those. I want to be a Final Four champion." Well, I didn't know too much about it at that time, so I just said, "Honey, you just study hard and practice and I'm sure you can have one of those." My husband looked at me and said, "That's the dumbest thing you've ever said. It doesn't just happen. The moon and stars have to be aligned ... it's complicated. You ... have ... no ... idea."

But I was just being a good mother talking about good study habits. Now I understand how hard it is.

SE: Did you ever wonder about your 18-year-old son calling his head coach by his first name ... Frank?

Jerome: I certainly did. I heard it the first time and my head snapped around and said, "What did you call him? He's your coach!" I finally went to Frank and said, "Mr. Martin, are you sure it's OK for my son to call you Frank?" He assured me it was fine.

SE: Has Jake talked much about the future ... the NBA or playing in Europe?

Jerome: Not really. He has been extremely focused on his senior year. Every blue moon he may ask, "I wonder what's next?" but it's very seldom. I don't talk about it because he doesn't.

Charlotte: My motto is that every kid bouncing a ball from 8 to 80 has a dream to play in the NBA. This guy (Jerome) would like to. It's just a dream that so many kids have. (Laughing) If it has to be Europe, they have planes that go to Europe!

Jerome: (Laughing) And she has her passport updated, and so do I.


We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen at mjanssen7@cox.net, or Kansas State Director of Athletic Communications/SID Kenny Lannou at klannou@kstatesports.com. For those who would like to share Sports Extra with a friend or family member, or change your current email address, click here.