Prince James Story |
University of California at Riverside basketball fans have a lot to be optimistic about to start the 2022-2023 season.
With their veteran guards playing at a high level, the Highlanders have started the season 6-3.
The Highlanders went 3-0, at the Vegas 4 event before Thanksgiving, with wins against Weber State, Wright State, and Abilene Christian.
The win against Wright State displayed what this team is made of as they went on an 11-0 run to close the game.
The Highlanders have had some nailbiters early in the season. On two separate occasions this season, the Highlanders have won after senior point guard Zyon Pullin made a mid-range jump shot to give them the lead with under five seconds left to go in the game.
Pullin was named the Lou Henson National Player of the week. He averaged 22 points per game and five rebounds during the tournament.
Pullin’s backcourt partner, another senior guard Flynn Cameron was named the Big West player of the week.
You can attribute UCR’s early success to a well-rounded offense and the veteran leadership of senior guards Pullin and Cameron.
Pullin contemplated going pro after his junior season but decided to return to UCR for his senior season to win a championship, and head coach Mike Magpayo told him that he would work to put the best team together to make that happen.
I talked to Coach Magpayo in August, and he described Pullin’s leadership as “night and day” when talking about Pullin’s leadership and growth on and off the court from when he first came to campus.
“I don’t know if Zyon knows this or not, but they’re all looking up to him for sure. [He is] number one, not just because he is one of the best players in the league and one of the best players UC Riverside has ever had, but also because of the way he carries himself. He was just raised well by his parents.”
In the off-season, he spent that time training and polishing his game. He was invited to Portland Trailblazers’ All-NBA point guard Damian Lillard’s inaugural “Formula Zero” basketball camp.
In August, Lillard described the qualities an athlete needs off the court as just as necessary as their skill on the court to succeed in playing pro basketball and life. “It’s going to be your character, the work ethic, how you treat people, how coachable you are, how unselfish you are, how humble you are, how disciplined you are.”
The camp featured both high school and college basketball players who dream of playing in the NBA someday.
“My biggest takeaway was just being intentional and playing with purpose in everything you do,” Pullin said. “Your work ethic has to be in line with your dreams, which for me is playing in the NBA. So I think it was just kind of, thinking a little differently, the way I approach things were some of the big takeaways for me.”
Coach Magpayo said that he admires Pullin’s competitiveness and drive to improve his game, “what’s crazy is that guy puts whatever expectations I have, Zyon has higher expectations, and he’s harder on himself.”
“I think this offseason, he was in my office two hours at a time, which was great for both of us because we got to build a stronger relationship,” Magpayo said.
Pullin is leading the team in scoring, averaging 19.3 points per game, and is ranked third in scoring for the Big West.
Pullin has eclipsed 20 points in five of the nine games played this season.
The Highlanders’ next game is on Wednesday, December 14th at 6 p.m. against the Oregon Ducks.