Where are they now?: Puleo enjoying return to hardwood as Commodore

Vanderbilt junior guard Angela Puleo drives for a layup against Delta State in the exhibition opener for the Commodores earlier this month.

Vanderbilt junior guard Angela Puleo drives for a layup against Delta State in the exhibition opener for the Commodores earlier this month.

Angela Puleo scored more points than any other girls’ basketball player in Blount County history in the full-court era, and, after a year away from hardwood, the Vanderbilt guard is excited to lace up the high-tops and sink shots for the Commodores.

After two seasons at the University of Georgia, the former William Blount All-State guard decided it was best to take her skills elsewhere with the close of the 2009 season.

“Vanderbilt and their system is a better fit for me as a basketball player” she said. “I think the Vanderbilt team is better suited for what I bring to the table.”

The 5-foot-9 Commodore junior sat out last season due to NCAA transfer rules. While in Athens she started 60 of 64 contests, averaging 8.2 points per game her freshman year and 7.4 points per game her sophomore season.

The consistent stroke from behind the arc familiar to many in Blount County followed Puleo to Georgia, where she hit 36 percent of her 3-point attempts.

Puleo, whose Blount County-record 2,650 points included a 26.1 points per game average her senior season as a Lady Governor, will spend most of her time this season at shooting guard for the Commodores. Out of necessity, the versatile Puleo will fill in at point guard while All-SEC guard Jence Rhoads recovers from a hamstring injury.

Puleo said she feels her role is secondary to the success of the team.

“Anyway I can contribute, coming off the bench and giving that spark on offense … anything I can do to help the team win I’m more than willing to do,” she said.

The offensive system that drew Puleo to Vanderbilt is designed and controlled by coach Melanie Balcomb, a woman for whom the former Lady Governor has a lot of admiration.

“She’s a very offensive minded coach,” Puleo said. “She gives us an offense, and she is very particular about what she wants, or where we need to be.

“She gives us the outline, but we have to fill in the lines. She really is an offensive genius. If we can just listen to what she says, we should be a successful offensive team.”

At the conclusion of her playing career, Puleo hopes to transition into coaching at the collegiate level. That may have to wait a few years, though, as the prospects of extending her playing career to the professional level is enticing, Puleo said.

“Anyone would be crazy if they didn’t say yes when given the opportunity to play at the next level,” she said. “As young girls we all have that dream. If I were able to play overseas in Italy, or Greece, or somewhere like that, it would be hard to turn that down.”

Puleo said she’s looking forward to a Jan. 15 game with Tennessee at Thompson-Boling Arena.

“I think it’s always great to come home and have my high school coaches come to the game, and a lot of my family and friends,” she said. “I think that’s great. Tennessee is an historically great team and presently a great team, and it will be a great test for our team.”

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