Pulliam returns to the court with style

By Frank Gogola

Redshirt junior point guard Danny Pulliam is in the midst of her best year ever after her basketball career at NIU was put on hold for two years.

Pulliam, of Pike High School in Indianapolis, joined the Huskies in 2010-11 and made an immediate impact; however, a knee injury derailed her next two seasons. She returned at the beginning of this season and has taken over starting point guard duties for the Huskies.

As a true freshman in 2010-11, Pulliam played in 30 games and started 24, playing 27.1 minutes per game. She averaged four points, 3.1 rebounds, two assists and one steal per game.

Pulliam continued to progress in her second season in DeKalb. She upped her scoring (six), rebounds (3.4), assists (three) and steals (1.6) during her sophomore campaign before she suffered a season-ending injury in the fifth game of the season.

She tore her meniscus in her right knee on Nov. 26, 2011, at Illinois State in a non-contact injury that occurred when she landed after a jump shot. The torn meniscus required season-ending surgery, which set up a long rehab process.

After the surgery, Pulliam spent three months on crutches before her rehab process could begin. During rehab, she spent time in the pool and time lifting weights to strengthen her legs.

“The rehab process was really long,” Pulliam said. “The biggest thing that helped me was staying over the summer. So, when people got the breaks to go home, to be with their family, I stayed. I stayed and rehabbed and rehabbed and met with different doctors and met with different people and just figured out how I could get better.”

She returned to the court in 2012-13, where she played in seven games and started three. She averaged 16.4 minutes per game, but the pain in her knee became too much. Her season came to a close for the second year in a row with micro-fracture surgery.

“I think it was the hardest thing ever,” Pulliam said. “After the first injury I said, ‘OK, I can come back, I can come back, I can do it.’ Then to get hit with it a second time was just like, ‘Can you really do it?’ You just really have to question who you are and what’s really important to you, your priorities.”

After a second rehab stint, Pulliam returned to the team at the beginning of this season and made her way back into the starting lineup. She has played in all 13 games and has started 10 at point guard.

She is averaging career highs in points per game (9.5), assists per game (3.4) and assist-to-turnover ratio (2.4). Her 3.2 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game are both her second-best career marks.

“Danny makes good decisions in the open court,” said junior guard Amanda Corral. “She’s strong with the ball. Danny’s a great point guard. She can take the open shot. She can drive. She can shoot the outside shot. She’s really worked on her game a lot and added a lot of things she didn’t have before and is a complete player.”

Pulliam said the injury was “a blessing in disguise” because she was able to focus more on her academics. She graduated with her bachelor’s degree following the fall semester, and she is pursuing her master’s degree.

On the court, she is going after her playing career, which is back under way after being put on hold for two seasons.

“Out of everything, we needed Danny back because of her competitiveness,” said head coach Kathi Bennett. “I always worry about a fight breaking out with her; she’s just so dang competitive. She’s brought that fire to the team. There hasn’t been one game where she hasn’t been ready and her energy hasn’t been high, and I respect that.

“We have some players that maybe are inconsistent with energy, intensity, focus. For Danny to come back and be ready every single game, I think says a lot about her.”