Pulliam Combines Two Passions for One Cause

Dillon Pulliam had a different summer than the rest of his Kentucky Wildcat teammates.

Like his teammates, the redshirt sophomore walk-on played basketball over the summer, worked out and fine-tuned his game. But he also traveled to Belize, a small country similar in size to Massachusetts that borders Guatemala and Mexico in Central America, for a mission trip.

“We went down there, it was about 10 players – seven of them were other college players,” Pulliam said. “So we went down there, played four or five games and then after the games we would share our testimony and give a little devotional to the other team, and tell them about Christ, our life and stuff like that. It was definitely a great experience and I learned a lot from it.”

The trip was in conjunction with the group Sports Reach, which is the same group that senior guard Dominique Hawkins traveled with to China earlier in the summer. On the trip, Pulliam gained a greater appreciation of what he has in his own life, such as simply having clean, running water. 

It was not only Pulliam’s first time being out of the country for an extended period of time, it was also his first mission trip. Originally, the Cynthiana, Kentucky, native was planning on going on one next summer, but found out about this opportunity three weeks before the departure date and said he felt he was called to go.

“We saw incredible things, but then really sad things,” Pulliam said. “It just taught me to be thankful for what I have and to appreciate life every day.”

And he already has plans on going on another mission trip next summer.

“It was a great experience,” Pulliam said. “I’m going to try to go next summer whether it be to China or Belize again, or another country. It was fun, especially being able to combine basketball with it. That was really cool for me because that was two things I love.”

Pulliam is involved with the Christian Student Fellowship group on campus at Kentucky. He’s in a small group with CSF that former Kentucky guard Jarrod Polson leads that meets Wednesday nights, and also tries to attend their synergy every Thursday when practices or workouts don’t conflict with it.

Pulliam says he’s not the most vocal person about his faith, but tries instead to demonstrate it by how he lives his life.

“I grew up in a church home and I committed to Christ in like the seventh grade,” Pulliam said. “Like anyone else, I’ve had my ups and downs, but I feel like I’ve always tried to stay strong in my faith. Especially when I came to UK I was able to be a part of CSF and I feel like that’s really helped me to grow as a Christian and as a person. Last year we had a small group that Jarrod and Gabe (Measner) and a few other guys led. We did that every week. That was one thing that really helped me to grow because we would read the Word and we also would be encouraged to study outside of the group and learn about stuff on our own.”

In Kentucky, the love and passion for Wildcat basketball is often compared to religion. Pulliam knows all about that after having grown up in the Commonwealth. And after redshirting last season, per NCAA rules after transferring from Division III Transylvania University, Pulliam cannot wait to finally put on the blue and white Kentucky uniform for the first time this season. 

The 6-foot-3 guard averaged 4.8 points and 3.4 rebounds per game in his freshman season for the Pioneers. Last year, Pulliam could not dress out at home games, nor could he travel with the team on road games. It was a tough pill to swallow at the time, but will only make the upcoming year sweeter.

“It was definitely difficult because on the road games you feel like you’re almost not a part of the team because everybody’s gone and you’re on campus by yourself,” Pulliam said. “I feel like it really helped me to grow a lot, but this year I’m definitely looking forward to getting the chance to play and travel and put on the Kentucky jersey, something I’ve dreamed of.

“Representing the state that I grew up in, that I love, is definitely a blessing. I know whenever I go back home people always tell me good job, keep up the good work and that they’re cheering for me. They’re proud of me to represent Harrison County, Cynthiana, the state of Kentucky, all that.”