Jake Bullard, Pittsburg State University sophomore from Cleora, Okla., does well on the basketball court, and does good in the community.
So, when it came time for the PSU athletic department to nominate a student athlete for the 2014 Good Works Teams, he was a natural choice.
"Jake is the first one we've nominated," said Kevin Muff, PSU head men's basketball coach.
Nominees were announced recently by Allstate Insurance Company, the National Association of Basketball Coaches and the Women's Basketball Coaches Association. The award honors a select group of college basketball student athletes who have made significant contributions to the greater good of their communities through volunteerism and civic service.
Bullard was nominated on the basis of his involvement with Mathletes and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Crawford County, along with participating in free basketball clinics for youngsters.
Mathletes is a program originated by the PSU Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and developed by cross country and track athlete Erica Testa and media relations director Heidi Johnson, with expert input from Dr. Kathy Spillman, PSU elementary math professor. The aim is to help elementary students develop math skills .
"Mathletes is a great program," Bullard said. "It gets the players involved in the community and the community gets to know us on a personal level."
He added that it's fun for both the youngsters and the players.
"We play games with the kids," he said. "Say we're doing basketball. We ask them math-related questions, and if they answer their question correctly, they get to shoot. We usually ask questions on addition or sometimes multiplication."
Occasionally youngsters struggle to get the right answer, and Bullard said the players can give them a little help.
"We don't want any child to be left out," he said.
Bullard also signed up as a BBBS volunteer last fall and was matched with an elementary school age boy.
"I thought this would be a really good thing to do, and the best way to impact a child's life," he said.
He and his "little brother" were matched around September of 2012.
"At first I met him in school for lunch and recess, which was nice because I got to know his friends," Bullard said. "Then they came to look at my house, and now I can see him anywhere. We can do things he enjoys and things I enjoy."
That includes getting something to eat, going to a park and playing video games.
"I try to spend an hour a week with him, sometimes more or sometimes less, depending on what's going on," Bullard said. "He was at the last PSU home basketball, and I like having him watch me play. We have a strong relationship, and I try to stay in touch with him when I go home for summer break."
A 2012 Vinita, Okla., High School graduate, he was valedictorian of his class and was a three-time Oklahoma 4A All-State performer. He signed a national letter of intent with PSU in November of 2011.
"Jake Bullard reflects what the future of Pittsburg State basketball personifies," Muff said at that time. "He is an athletic wing that can score the ball in a variety of ways and has a blue collar work ethic that will translate well with our defensive philosophy."
Bullard enjoys being at PSU, and appreciates that it's only about 1 1/2 hours from home."It's a win-win situation," he said.
He's majoring in mechanical engineering and continues to maintain a good grade point average.
"Jake is a good student and a good kid," Muff said. "Being an athlete and traveling can put a strain on your time, but he does a good job of managing that."
A total of 117 men's college basketball players and 84 women players have been nominated for the Good Works Teams, and winners will be announced in February. Ten members will be selected for the men's team, consisting of five players from the Division I level and five from Divisions II, III and the NAIA. They will be invited to the 2014 NCAA Men's Final Four in Dallas, where they will participate in a community project in the city.
"If Jake does win this, we couldn't ask for a better representative, on and off the floor," Muff said. "Our whole team is good about volunteering in the community."