BallinEurope recently received an email from the folk(s) over at Greek-language blog site Basketball Aris about the team’s latest acquisition Pierre Pierce, who comes to Greece after a couple of seasons with LNB side Hyeres-Toulon.
Though BiE doesn’t get the chance to watch too much LNB ball – and even less of Hyeres-Toulon – i still have a few memories of the man’s sporadic career in the ‘States and on The Continent. They’re memories because Pierce is one exciting, aggressive and fearless player in the Allen Iverson mold; they’re sporadic because of continued consequences from indiscretions Pierce committed during his university days.
Pierce first saw the inside of the other kind of court in Iowa in 2002, just before the start of his sophomore year which was to chase his impressive freshman season (Pierce went for a line of 7.1 points, 3.3 assists and 3.3 rebounds per game with the University of Iowa Hawkeyes in 2001-02). Pierce was charged with and convicted on third-degree sexual assault, but managed to plea bargain his way down to a sentence of one year’s probation and 200 hours community service. In terms of basketball, the damage was done in the short term, as the school had suspended him from play upon his arrest.
His return to the team in 2003-04 was met with campus-wide derision and some 3,100 signatures were collected on petitions supporting his excision from the team. Pierce apologized publicly and otherwise answered the only way he know how to: By performing like a wizard on the court. His stat line for that season: 16.1 points, 5.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game.
His stat line for the following season: 17.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg, 4.2 apg and even 2.5 steals per game, until Pierce self-destructed off the court again. Pierce pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor charges stemming from another violent incident with a woman. Seeing him as a repeat offender, the judge sentenced him to terms totaling four years, but with parole possible in 11 months.
Pierce got out of jail in the 11 months and spent another seven months essentially under house arrest. However, in 2007, a comeback seemed possible when Pierce received an invite to the Golden State Warriors’ summer league team (which would later get him a 30-day prison sentence for violating conditions of his parole, namely leaving the state). He turned heads there early and often, but more importantly a psychological change seemed to have taken place; click here to read the excellent piece on the seemingly contrite and changed Pierce of ’08 by Henry Abbott of the ESPN TrueHoop Network.
In May 2008, an Iowa court denied Pierce’s request to be allowed to travel outside the U.S. for work. When Toulon offered him a contract, Pierce went back to court and eventually won the right to travel abroad – despite the best efforts of the state attorney general.
Since then, Pierre has seen little more than brilliant success in the LNB and assuming his troubles are in his past, Aris Thessaloniki could very well have acquired their team MVP for 2010-11. The official Euroleague take on the acquisition runs as follows:
Aris BSA 2003 got stronger to try to reach the Eurocup through the Qualifying Round by inking guard Pierre Pierce to a one-year deal, the club confirmed Tuesday. Pierce (193 cm, 27 years old) arrives from Hyeres-Toulon Var Basket, where he averaged 13.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 30 French League games last season. Pierce joined Hyeres-Toulon in summer 2008 once he has finished his college career at the University of Iowa (NCAA). He averaged 17.8 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.5 steals in 20 NCAA games in the 2007-08 season.
What does BiE remember of Pierre Pierce? Even though BiE’s just seen him in about five games between university, summer league and LNB play, but geez you don’t need to see much. The YouTube above is well illustrative of Pierce’s style: Lots of Iversonian slashing to the basket fearlessly to go with incredible intensity under the boards – remember that the guy’s only about 6’4”.
We’ll have to wait and see how Pierce performs against the generally significantly taller players of EΣAKE, a league that represents the highest level Pierce has played at thus far in his career. BiE supposes, however, that the sky’s the limit for this ultra-talented and still-rising player. To riff on the cliché, the only person that can stop Pierce’s rise right now is Pierce himself.