February 15, 2008

Pullen learning from Martin's tough love

Teammates feel badly for him, really. If he's on the court and things are going south for Kansas State, as they did at times during the 18th-ranked Wildcats' 84-75 loss at Texas Tech on Wednesday, it isn't difficult to find freshman point guard Jacob Pullen. First-year head coach Frank Martin is usually barking into his ear. It's all a part of Pullen's growth, which has been gradual but is reaching new heights against tough Big 12 competition.

"To take what Frank dishes out every day? He's got to be tough," star freshman Michael Beasley said. "He's the point guard, he's going to be here for a long time so why not jump on him early? Jake takes it."

The relationship between Martin and Pullen isn't approaching Belichick-Brady quite yet. Through 23 games, including nine battles in the Big 12, the seeds have started to sprout, though. While senior Clent Stewart starts at point guard, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Pullen is often the first off the bench. His leadership and points are on the rise, but even in scoring 16 points in 28 minutes against the Red Raiders, Pullen's assist-to-turnover ratio (0 to 4) raised the coach's blood pressure.

Pullen entered Texas Tech ranked fourth in the Big 12 in assists (3.63) in league games.

"When (Pullen) plays well, I don't scream at him," Martin said. "When he doesn't play well, I let him know he's not playing well. He's a point guard. It's hard to keep your team on the same page with what we as coaches are trying to do unless your point guard is in tune with what you're doing. It's no different with a quarterback. If the quarterback isn't in sync with the coach and offensive coordinator, you give your team no chance to win.

"Jake gives you two good minutes and two bad minutes. It's my job for him to give us four very consistent minutes. They're either going to be four very good minutes or four very bad minutes, but we can't have the ups and downs."

Tough love. Tough player. Mental meltdown? Fellow freshman and high-riser Bill Walker, often the recipient of a Pullen pass for a bucket, doesn't believe so.

"He knows his position requires a lot of mental toughness," Walker said. "Anytime anything goes wrong, people are going to start looking at him first. Playing point guard, you've got to have a quick memory. He can handle it. He's a big boy. You need someone telling you what you're doing wrong and what you're doing right. He'll be all right."

...More... To continue reading this article you must be a member. Sign Up Now!