- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
JACOB PULLEN'S facial hair took Manhattan by storm last spring, but the Beard wasn't his idea alone. After spotting an especially hirsute face on TV, power forward Curtis Kelly urged Pullen to grow out his whiskers. "I helped his marketing scheme," Kelly says with a laugh. "Fans owe that whole Fear the Beard logo to me."
This season the resurgent Wildcats figure to enter into an even more significant debt to the big man. Last year K-State rode one of the best backcourts in the country—Pullen and point guard Denis Clemente—to the Elite Eight. But the graduation of Clemente shifts the focus to a cast of large characters, led by Kelly, that coach Frank Martin has assembled down low. "I think we have the best frontcourt in the country," says Pullen. "We have a lot of depth. We really want to look to get the ball inside."
Especially to the Bronx-bred Kelly, a transfer from UConn who emerged as K-State's third-leading scorer and leading rebounder last year. A former five-star recruit known for his aggressive defense and a clever hook shot around the basket, Kelly believes he's vastly different from his younger self. "I wasn't hungry at UConn," Kelly admits. "But now I am." Joining him in the frenzy in the paint is 6'7" Jamar Samuels, the reigning Big 12 sixth man of the year, and a maturing crew of perhaps unparalleled size: 6'9" Wally Judge, 6'10" Freddy Asprilla and 7-foot Jordan Henriquez-Roberts. "We didn't have all that last year," Kelly says. "Now we can score from different angles, and we all have different skills."
As for the bearded one, Pullen will slide into Clemente's spot, where he has some experience. (As a freshman, Pullen led an upset of Kansas from the point.) But alongside his new backcourtmate, likely sophomore Rodney McGruder, he'll be leading a new-look attack. "This year our front line is the one with experience," Martin says. "They'll have to lead our team as our guards find their way."
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
Coach Frank Martin (4th season)
2009--10 record 29--8
Big 12 11--5 (2nd)
NCAA tournament Elite Eight
[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]