Grayslake Central's Bullman pounces on ISU offer

Illinois State University's coaches jumped, then Kate's cat leapt.

Sorry, Cinnamon.

"I surprised them," Kate Bullman said of ISU women's basketball head coach Kristen Gillespie and her assistant coach/cousin Scott Gillespie, who were visiting the Bullman home in Grayslake on Tuesday when the Grayslake Central junior gave them a verbal commitment.

After dinner, the Gillespies were talking basketball and academics with Bullman and her parents, Jay and Anna. Then as she often does on the basketball court, Kate stepped up.

"I said, 'I want to commit to ISU,' " Bullman said. "They were like, 'What?' I said, 'I'm not joking,' and they both jumped up at the same time. Scared my cat (Cinnamon). And they jumped on top of me."

Sometimes you got to be like a cat and pounce.

Bullman had more than a dozen Division-I scholarship offers, including ones from UW-Green Bay, Saint Louis, UW-Milwaukee, Northern Illinois, Eastern Illinois and Bradley. But she felt an instant connection to ISU going back to last summer. Gillespie offered her a scholarship when she took an unofficial visit late last September.

The 6-foot-2 Bullman, who projects as a "stretch 4" in college, attended a couple of ISU home games in Normal and also watched the Redbirds play at Loyola.

"Ever since I went to their Elite Camp (last) June - it was my favorite one, and I went to several - that was the one stuck out to me," Bullman said. "That was the first time they had seen me. I just got to know them over time. Their coaching staff is unlike any other that I've met in my life. They talked to me like I'm a person and not a 'recruit.' Sometimes we wouldn't even talk about basketball. It was just life stuff."

On her visits, Bullman says she met ISU's president and his wife, both of whom are big supporters on women's basketball, and the athletic director, who also loves women's game.

She was especially impressed with Gillespie, whose Redbirds went 14-16 in her first season (2017-18), marking the most successful season the program had experienced in five years. This past season, ISU finished 18-11.

Bullman, who also plays volleyball for Grayslake Central, has been a varsity basketball player since her freshman year and has been a Daily Herald All-Area selection the last two seasons. The forward/guard, who has three-point range and whose wingspan is nearly 6-4, averaged a double-double (14 points, 10 rebounds) this past season to go along with 3 blocks, 3.3 steals and 2 assists per game.

She wants to study psychology in college, and the fact that ISU has a sports psychology graduate program also helped her arrive at her decision to verbally commit. She wants to possibly be a coach after college, as well.

"It just seems like they're going in such a right direction with the program," Bullman said of ISU. "That was something that was super appealing to me. I don't want to be part of a program that's already good. I want to be part of a program that is still building."

Ask Kate's cat. The excitement is mutual.

  Grayslake Central's Kate Bullman, left, wins the opening tip against Quincy's Sarah Nelson during the Warren Blue Devil Classic last season. Joe Lewnard/
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