SE: Q&A with K-State Great Jacob Pullen
SE: Q&A with K-State Great Jacob Pullen
Jacob Pullen missed the sound, and the love that created it.
The all-time leading scorer in K-State men’s basketball history was greeted with a deafening roar from 50,000-plus Wildcat fans when he was introduced in flashback fashion by the voice of PA Announcer Dave Lewis during K-State’s win over Florida Atlantic in Bill Snyder Family Stadium on September 17.
For Pullen, who played some pick-up games earlier in the day with current Wildcats in the Ice Basketball Center, it was his first time in Manhattan since watching K-State play Auburn in 2014 and only his second return since graduating in 2011. He was among a group of basketball alumni in attendance for the game, including Rodney McGruder, Jordan Henriquez, Jamar Samuels, Chris Merriweather and Martavious Irving.
K-State Sports Extra got a chance to catch up with Pullen, who’s played professionally all over Europe, most notably in Spain, Italy, Israel and Croatia, his most recent experience, where his team repeated as champions this summer.
SE: What was it like being on the field, hearing K-State fans cheer for you again?
JP: Great. It was something that I missed. It’s always fun to come home, and this is home for me.
SE: What is your current basketball situation?
JP: Right now, I’m still a free agent. I haven’t decided where I’m going to go. I’m just taking time so I can spend it with my family because most of the time I’m usually gone, but I got a little girl now, so I’m trying to stay home, spend some more time with her. I’ll probably go abroad again unless I get a good NBA offer.
SE: Being back together with so many former teammates has to be special. One in particular, Rodney McGruder, has an opportunity to make an NBA roster this season with the Miami Heat. What can you say about him?
JP: It’s good to see it. I’m proud of Rod. I’m probably one of his biggest fans. I watched him grow. I watched him work as hard as he did to get where he’s gotten. I think he deserves it all and more, so I’m happy for him and I just hope that he continues to work.
SE: You are coming off winning a league title in Croatia. What was that experience like?
JP: I won a Spanish League Championship before. Every league is different, but last year was a lot of fun, being able to play in the Euro League again. As you get older, you just start to cherish all of the moments because you’re doing something that you love to do for a living.
SE: Former Wildcat Bill Walker was also on your Croatia team. How unique was that opportunity?
JP: Bill finished the season with the team that I was on. It was good being around him. He’s been a friend for a long time, so it’s always good to be around people that you know.
SE: What have been some of your favorite experiences playing abroad?
JP: Winning a Spanish Championship was very fun. (FC) Barcelona/Madrid is a real rivalry; it almost reminded me of K-State/KU. It was just fun being able to beat Madrid and win the championship there. That was probably one of the best things I’ve done, but just playing abroad, period. Seeing places all over the world, playing in different gyms, quieting different gyms, making big threes in someone else’s gym in Turkey and everybody gets quiet, that’s always going to be fun to me.
SE: Also this summer, you also played in the 2016 TBT (The Basketball Tournament) in Chicago with a group of former K-State players, winning one game before being eliminated. What did you take away from it?
JP: It was fun. I wish we could’ve had more guys and that we could have done better, but upon short notice we had some injuries and some people who had to cancel. It was just fun being around each other again and just playing in front of the K-State fans that came out. It’s rare in those types of settings that fans come out like they did, and K-State fans showed out again, like they’ve done my whole life. I remember when we played in Vegas my sophomore year and we had a lot of fans. K-State has always had a well-travelled crowd. That’s one of the best things about it.
SE: How has your game evolved since graduating from K-State?
JP: I’m just smarter. The thing that you can never change is just working, and as long as you have the work ethic, you will learn as you continue to grow. Playing pick-up with the guys at K-State (Saturday), I really wanted to see how hungry they are to be good and be able to tell them little things I picked up on when I was in college and try to help them out. I think Barry Brown is going to be really good. I think Wesley (Iwundu) is going to have to be a leader this year, but for the most part, I really like those guys. I think Dean (Wade) is going to be really good. He’s a really good player. It was fun just to be around those guys and see how hungry they are for success. It reminds me of when we were in college.
SE: What did you learn at K-State that you’ve carried with you in your professional career?
JP: My work ethic. This is where my work ethic really changed. Going into my junior year, I really understood the difference between good players and great players and that was spending more time in the gym. As I get older, it’s just something that I can’t get away from. If I see a gym, I always feel like I can go in there and get shots in and get better. It’s just something that’s stayed with me since I’ve been here.