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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Windy City showdown

Chicago natives Collins, Pullen playing for bragging rights

Kansas University guard Sherron Collins, left, guarded by Jackson State’s Rod Melvin in a Dec. 6, 2008, file photo, and Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen, right, guarded by Texas’ D.J. Augustin in a Feb. 25, 2008, file photo, will matchup against one another in tonight’s game. Both Collins and Pullen are Chicago natives.

Kansas University guard Sherron Collins, left, guarded by Jackson State’s Rod Melvin in a Dec. 6, 2008, file photo, and Kansas State guard Jacob Pullen, right, guarded by Texas’ D.J. Augustin in a Feb. 25, 2008, file photo, will matchup against one another in tonight’s game. Both Collins and Pullen are Chicago natives.

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UPDATED: 2008-09 Kansas Men's Basketball: Past, Present and Future

This KUSports.com multimedia feature will keep you on pace with the Kansas men’s basketball team throughout the season. We trace the path from last year’s national championship game to the team's new faces for 2009, its 11-4 record heading into conference play and a 14-2 Big 12 finish, including a record fifth-straight conference title. Check back for a final update when the season concludes.

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The leading scorers at both Kansas University and Kansas State were born and raised — and developed their games — on the mean streets of Chicago.

“I don’t take it personal, but I just don’t like to lose to anybody from Chicago,” said gritty KU junior point guard Sherron Collins.

He enters today’s 7 p.m., home game against K-State sophomore floor general/fellow Windy City native Jacob Pullen with an 18.1 scoring, 5.2 assist average compared to Pullen’s 14.3 scoring, 3.8 assist mark.

A year ago, as one of KU’s first players off the bench, the 5-foot-11, 200-pound Collins split a pair of games against 6-foot, 200-pound KSU sixth man Pullen.

The two never squared off against each other in high school — when Collins and Pullen starred at West side schools Crane High and Proviso East respectively.

“We are hard nosed, tough, we’re not going to back down,” Collins said in describing Chicago-bred point guards. “He (Pullen) is another tough Chicago kid. I never got to play against him in high school, but you always know good players. When they are in Chicago ... you know who they are.”

Pullen exploded for 20 points off 4-of-9 shooting and 10-of-10 free throwing and dished four assists in KSU’s 84-75 victory over KU last Jan. 30 at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan. Collins countered with 12 points off 5-of-11 shooting with two assists.

In KU’s 84-74 victory on March 1 in Lawrence, Collins scored 18 points off 7-of-12 shooting with four assists and four steals. Pullen struggled to three points off 1-of-4 shooting with two assists and three turnovers.

“Pullen wore us out there,” KU coach Bill Self said of the game that snapped KU’s 24-game win streak in the Little Apple.

Collins had as fine a performance in the revenge game in Lawrence.

“He's just a little bowling ball. Sherron is strong, physical and has good ballhandling skills and can shoot the ball well when he gets into a rhythm,” Pullen said. “Going against him is always tough. You’ve got to guard him, but the key is to make him guard also.”

Pullen, who like Collins has earned a starting job this season, acknowledged the Chicago bragging rights that are at stake.

“Me and Sherron both being from the West side of Chicago, my friends know his friends, my family know his family and stuff like that,” Pullen said. “Whoever has the better game and whoever’s team wins, that’s bragging rights back home. They’ll be calling his friends and stuff and saying, ‘Jake won’ and just stuff like that. It really makes the game a lot more competitive. We just hope that this year we can go 2-0 against KU, hopefully get one at their house and hopefully get the win at our house, too.”

KU coach Bill Self said it’s no coincidence both teams’ point guards hail from Chicago. It’s an area known for top talent at the lead guard position, none better than former Indiana University and NBA great Isiah Thomas.

“They’ve had so many wings, guards in Chicago and most are tough as nails,” Self said. “The first who comes to mind is Isiah. The thing they always say about Isiah is he is the toughest guy everybody played against. I think that way of our Chicago point guard as well. K-State obviously has a Chicago flavor in its backcourt. Most of them are street tough kids.”

Collins and Pullen enter tonight’s game as the game’s marquee players. It’s quite a different story from a year ago when KSU had Michael Beasley and Bill Walker and the Jayhawks had the likes of NBA players Darrell Arthur, Brandon Rush, Mario Chalmers and Darnell Jackson.

“Yeah,” KU center Cole Aldrich said, asked if he was happy Beasley had moved on to the pros after one season. He exploded for 39 points versus KU in Allen Fieldhouse and 25 at Bramlage Coliseum. “I tried guarding him last year at their place,” Aldrich added, shaking his head.

“They are still good,” Aldrich added of the Wildcats, whose losses have come to Kentucky, Iowa, Oregon and Oklahoma. KSU has wins over Florida A&M;, SE Missouri State, Emporia State, Cleveland State, Oakland, Southern Mississippi, Gardner-Webb, Centenary, Wagner, Idaho State and Chicago State.

“They lost Beasley and Walker. That doesn’t mean anything. They have hard-nosed guys that go out and give it all every time they step on the court. It’s going to be even more elevated because they are playing us. It’s a huge game for both sides because it’s for bragging rights on both sides of the state,” added Aldrich, who is a buddy of KSU senior Darren Kent, who like Aldrich hails from Minnesota.

KSU is equally complimentary of KU.

There’s no Beasley-like trash talking going on before the first rivalry game this season. On the contrary, the ’Cats have been praising KU’s tradition-rich fieldhouse in interviews this week.

“I try to tell all the newcomers that it’s something you’ll never be able to explain, you only can step in there and see it,” Pullen said of Allen. “Other places are tough, but they are nothing like Allen Fieldhouse. Having to go there at the beginning of the Big 12 is a real good wakeup call. We can show people that we can win games if we can get a win there,” Pullen added.

“It doesn’t get any easier,” Kent said after last Saturday’s 61-53 home loss to Oklahoma. “Kansas is a great team. They’re very versatile. They have an inside and outside game.

“Going to Allen Fieldhouse is always tough. It’s a crazy environment there, so we need to stay focused on the task at hand and keep preparing like we have just like every game this season.”

While KU’s Self welcomes the homecourt advantage, he cautions KU must be at its best to hold off the Wildcats.

“Frank (Martin, second year coach) has them playing as hard as anybody in the country, not just our league,” Self said. “They will come in here and play hard and play well.”

Comments

Dirk Medema 11 years ago

I was going to comment that the kittycats haven't beaten anyone this year, but then checked the schedule and noticed that their losses have all been close (5 pt or less I believe). Hopefully, the players and fans are ready.Rock Chalk!

Robert Brock 11 years ago

Now that the TWO GOONS have moved on, Frank Martin seems to have assembled a legitimately decent team that is playing respectable hoops.

kubasketball0809 11 years ago

HAHAHAHA The Kitty Kats arent even going to be a close game this year just like it was last year in Allen Feildhouse........ Sherron will shut Pullen down!!!!1ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!!!!!!!

John Strayer 11 years ago

Good grief...that's the last thing Sherron needs...for this game to become a personal battle between him and the opposing guard...this hasn't seemed to work well so far this year. Sherron has been best when he has gotten the rest of the team involved.

JayhawkPhil64 11 years ago

These comments remind me of a theory I have regarding KU fans. Call me silly but I have always thought that the collective mindset of fans going into a game somehow melds into the minds of our players. If the fans are over confident and cocky going into a game then so are the players, making them vulnerable to upset. If the fans are scared of a tough opponent then the players come out fired up like they did against Tennessee.Even though KSU's is a better team than usual(exception last year), we have much better talent and should beat these guys by 20 pts but that may not necessarily happen. The thing to remember is that these guys usually play one of their best games of the year in Allen while, for some reason, we usually play them much better at Bramlege. I really think KU fans need to develop a collective mindset between now and game time that this will be a tough game and realize that it will be important for us to jump on these guys early and pressure their guards. Without their guards these guys are nothing but if we start out sloppy and they get this into a low scoring game, we could be in trouble. If you think talent alone will carry the day, all I have to remind you of is the time Dana Altman came here with a hang dog look, a 6-4 power forward and a midget for a point guard and beat us.Common KU fans, get your game face on and realize this is an important game and we need to come out focused to beat these guys mano mano. It is the most important game of the year so far. If this mindset can carry over to our players then we will continue to show these guys we are still, and always will be, the better program.

David Reed 11 years ago

Ty Taylor breaks out of his funk tonight KU wins by at least 10

okjhok 11 years ago

Are you being sarcastic, JayhawkPhil64?

cklarock 11 years ago

This is one I'm really looking forward to. If I was a Wildcat, I'd think this was probably one of my best windows to stop the KU home win streak. I definitely wouldn't want to start Big 12 play 0-2, especially if I was looking to build an NCAA resume.As a KU fan, I still think this young team of ours can still compete for the Big 12 title, but this game is one of those deal-makers-or-breakers. The fieldhouse will be fired up, I can't wait!

JayCeph 11 years ago

Does it strike anyone else as odd that KU and KSU both have top PGs that are from Chicago and their feature 5s are both from Minnesota?I'm almost beginning to wonder if KSU isn't copying from our playbook. They say that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery but this is pretty kooky.The next thing you know, they'll have a draft pick go play in Miami with Captain Clutch from last year's championship squad... whu? Oh, right... that already happened.Reflections of reality are just that, reflections. Perhaps Plato's allegory of the cave will come in handy when dealing with the (copy-)cats.

chicagohawk52 11 years ago

"The leading scorers at both Kansas University and Kansas State were born and raised — and developed their games — on the mean streets of Chicago"Really? Not sure how "mean" the streets are here. They're covered in snow but not too mean.

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