Missouri women's basketball transfer Kulas shines for Tigers

Sunday, December 2, 2012 | 4:14 p.m. CST
Bri Kulas, a junior transfer in her first year on the Missouri women's basketball team, has started each of the team's first six games, averaging 27 minutes and 9 points per game.

COLUMBIA — Bri Kulas stands at the half-court line of Mizzou Arena, a couple of steps separating her from her teammates.

Her tall, slender frame is bent forward, her hands on her knees and her eyes locked on the drill happening in front of her.

Monday's game

Missouri (5-2) vs. Tennessee-Martin (2-5)

WHEN:  7 p.m.
WHERE: Mizzou Arena
TV: Fox Sports Midwest

She breaks her concentration only to share a few words with teammate Sydney Crafton before coach Robin Pingeton calls them back into action.

Once she enters the drill, Kulas forces a steal, battling for the ball as she falls to the floor. 

Her coach offers quick praise — "Good steal, Bri!" — before new players are switched in and she returns to her stance and observes the next group.

The sequence is typical of Kulas, a junior transfer in her first year on the Missouri women's basketball team. She has started each of the team's first six games, averaging 27 minutes and nine points per game.

It's been an easy transition back to Division I basketball for Kulas. Originally from Shawnee Mission, Kan., she played her freshman year at Kansas State before transferring to Johnson County Community College.

After earning National Junior College Athletic Association Division II All-American honors last season, Kulas signed on to play at Missouri. Equally as comfortable behind the three-point line as she is under the basket, Kulas has been a key tool for the inexperienced Tigers.

Through the whole process, she's largely kept to herself, never drawing too much attention on the court and saying little to the media.

Has it been difficult for her to adjust back to Division I level of play?

"No, I don't think so at all," Kulas said. "I was at my junior college, and that was my whole mindset, coming back to the D-1 level, so it's always something I wanted."

Why did she choose to come to Missouri?

"I just like the coaching staff here," she said. "It's close to home so my family can watch me play."

Is it a big deal to her to be in the starting lineup?

"No," Kulas said. "Whatever's best for my team."

But while Kulas may appear quiet in interviews, her teammates say it's a different story in the locker room. 

"At first I was like this girl doesn't talk, I don't even know how I'm going to get to know her," freshman Lindsey Cunningham said. "But then I got to know her. She's so funny. She talk, talk, talks."

Sophomore Kyley Simmons laughed at the notion of Kulas as an introvert.

"She's a quiet person, but I think it's just one of those things where once you feel comfortable with somebody, you open up," Simmons said. "Bri is very sarcastic and funny. She's not dry at all. She's a fun person."

Pingeton said she's thankful that the laid-back girl she knows off the court is able to handle the pressure when she steps onto it.

"I feel like games couldn't have come at a better time for her," Pingeton said. "I think she was at that point, six weeks of practice, where it's time to turn the lights on and get on the big stage, and she obviously has responded extremely well." 

And while Kulas might be loose around her teammates, Cunningham said her quiet nature is on full display at game time. 

"Before the game, she's just easygoing and cool," Cunningham said. "Everyone else is trying to be hyped, and she's just sitting there. She comes out and does what she needs to do."

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