CBSSports.com Senior Writer

Bearded Pullen believes he has paid his dues, ready to lead K-State

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Jacob Pullen has a pretty face.

That's what his mother wants you to know, and it's something his mother wishes she could see more often. Bic. Gillette. Schick. Whatever. The brand of razor doesn't matter much to Charlotte Pullen. She would just love to watch her baby boy grab some kind of razor, any kind of razor, and drag it across his face so that she can see the smooth cheeks hidden behind the most feared beard in the Big 12.

But ...

Confident Jacob Pullen thinks he should be a first-team All-American. (Getty Images)  
Confident Jacob Pullen thinks he should be a first-team All-American. (Getty Images)  
"I feel like I'm obligated to keep it now," Pullen said. "Kansas State and Nike would get mad if I cut it."

In other words, sorry mom, the beard will remain. (So get those Fear the Beard signs ready, Kansas State fans.) Pullen will keep it for the same reason Adam Morrison kept that goofy mustache, for the same reason Steve Spurrier often goes with a visor, for the same reason Flavor Flav hangs that big-ass clock around his neck. Pullen will keep the beard because it's how we've come to identify him. It's like a scarlet letter. But positive. And bushy.

"I used to could just go get on planes and walk past people, but now, whatever state I'm in, people come up and say, 'You're that bearded guy! I know you, man! I've seen you on TV, man! The double-overtime game!'" Pullen said with a laugh. "I get it all the time."

The "double-overtime game" was Kansas State's double-OT win against Xavier that pushed the Wildcats into the Elite Eight. Pullen went back and forth with Xavier's Jordan Crawford and finished with 28 points, this after dropping 34 on BYU in a matchup against Jimmer Fredette. Fast-forward to today, and it's hard to assemble a preseason All-American team that doesn't include Pullen and his beard. That's wild considering this is the same guy who was only a three-star prospect coming out of high school and overshadowed in the Chicago area by Derrick Rose and Evan Turner, wild considering this is the same guy who was labeled just another piece of the KSU recruiting class that Michael Beasley and Bill Walker headlined.

"I should be," Pullen answered when I asked if he would be a first-team All-American, and put me down as somebody who loves the confidence and honesty. "I feel like I've earned everything I could possibly get, and it should come my way. I'm the guy everybody walked past and passed up on, the guy nobody thought would be able to do anything. But I've earned it."

Indeed, he has. Pullen averaged 19.3 points and 3.4 assists last season while leading the Wildcats to within one win of the Final Four. He's the leader of a KSU team that CBSSports.com and many others will pick this season to win the Big 12, and, yes, that's absolutely the goal. Though Pullen doesn't deny that he desires the magazine covers that could come his way, more than anything he wants to win something of significance because, honestly, he has never won anything of significance.

That's never as in never-ever.

"I've never won a championship," Pullen said. "Grade school. High school. AAU. I've never won a championship. We'd always get right there and lose. Peach Jam? We lost in the Final Four. State? In my senior year we lost to Demetri [McCamey] and Evan [Turner] to go to the Elite Eight. My junior year we lost to Derrick Rose to go to the Final Four. My sophomore year we lost to Bobby Frasor to go to the Elite Eight. I always get right there and never win. Last year we got to the Elite Eight but couldn't get to the Final Four. So for me, this is the year. I've got to win. It eats at me a lot. I've got to win something."

I'm betting he does.

Probably the Big 12, perhaps a regional in the NCAA tournament.

Whatever the case, it'll be won with that beard.

Recognizable and rewarding.

Something only a mother couldn't love.


Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for CBSSports.com and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.
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