Women’s Basketball: USA taps Lindsey Pulliam for Pan American Games in Peru


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Lindsey Pulliam makes a move. The guard earned a spot on the Team USA roster for this summer’s Pan American Games in Peru.

Ryan Wangman, In Focus Editor

Women’s Basketball

During her sophomore season, Northwestern guard Lindsey Pulliam emerged as a budding Big Ten star, scoring seemingly at will as her team worked a 21-15 record and competed in the WNIT Championship Game.

Trophies and accolades were the optimistic next step for her 2019-20 season, but now the guard will get the chance to add a medal to her collection before her junior-year campaign even begins.

After 35 national team hopefuls underwent three days of trials in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Pulliam was one of 12 players selected to represent the United States in the 2019 Pan American Games. The competition will kick off this August in Peru.

Pulliam is the fastest player in Wildcats history to reach 1,000 career points, achieving the milestone in a postseason game against Toledo, and was a 2019 All-Big Ten First Team selection by the conference’s coaches and media. During NU’s six-game 2019 WNIT tournament run, Pulliam was a star, averaging over 18 points per game en route to a runner-up finish and the team’s longest postseason run in program history.

The team was selected by the USA Basketball Women’s Junior National Team Committee and is pending the approval of the United States Olympic Committee.

“I told her this morning, ‘Just bring home the gold,’” coach Joe McKeown said. “She’s so competitive. To represent Northwestern and obviously your country is a great honor.”

If recent history is a guide, Pulliam is in good company with other Cats who competed on the national stage. Nia Coffey, the No. 5 pick in the 2017 WNBA Draft, won a gold medal with the U19 FIBA World Championship team the summer before her freshman year at NU. Amy Jaeschke, a Wooden Award finalist who played for the Cats from 2007 to 2011, also took home the top prize with the U19 World Championship team before coming to campus.

“I’m beyond blessed to be given this opportunity and I’m so excited to represent USA basketball,” Pulliam said in a news release. “I wouldn’t be where I am now without my family, my teammates and my coaches. I thank God for this opportunity. I am really excited.”

Suzy Merchant, the U.S. head coach, said Pulliam fits into the committee’s preferred backcourt prototype: a combination guard who can do a little bit of everything on the floor. Merchant thought Pulliam showcased herself very well at the trials, putting her offensive aggressiveness on display as she created her own shot with her signature pull-up jumper.

Pulliam did what she does best here in a game against Michigan State.

As Michigan State’s head coach, Merchant is already familiar with Pulliam. On the U.S. team, Merchant said she might implement a similar strategy to McKeown and utilize Pulliam as a bigger guard in the post to take advantage of mismatches down low. Pulliam’s turnaround jumper on the block is tough to guard, Merchant said.

Pulliam highlighted this skillset in a postseason contest against Ohio. Interior mismatch? Check. Pull-up jumper? Check.

“Let me say, it’s gonna be a lot more fun coaching with her on my team than going against her, that’s for sure,” Merchant said.

Pulliam will look to help net Team USA its first Pan American Games women’s basketball gold medal since 2007. The team finished second in 2015 and seventh in 2011.

McKeown said Pulliam’s selection was exciting for the NU staff, who has been supportive of the guard throughout the process.

“We’ve all been following, they streamed some of the games last night,” McKeown said. “And so we were all kind of on pins and needles because there’s just so many good players there, it could have went a lot of ways. But she earned it.”

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