Pierre Pierce: Growing Up & Looking to the Future

Pierre Pierce from Iowa Media Day.

Iowa guard Pierre Pierce was different at this year's media day event than he was last year.

You will recall that one year ago, Pierce was making his much ballyhooed return to the Iowa Men's Basketball program after being forced to sit out the 2002-2003 season due to a plea agreement that he and his lawyers reached with the lawyers of an Iowa coed stemming from a September of 2002 incident at Pierce's apartment.

Pierce plead to assault causing injury, and received a deferred sentence.

Last year, media members swarmed Pierce with questions about the incident, his year away from basketball and more.

Pierce faced all of those questions last October, and after a few small protests outside of Carver Hawkeye Arena and several verbal assaults from opposing fans in Big Ten arenas as well as in Hilton Colliseum, Pierce got back to playing basketball again.

Amidst the local and national scrutiny, Pierce led Iowa in scoring (16.1ppg) as well as becoming on of just two players in Iowa history to compile more than 200 points, 100 rebounds and 100 assists in more than one season. He accomplished that in his first two years at Iowa. Teammate and fellow junior Jeff Horner is the other player to turn that hat trick.

Thought still swarmed by media members at this year's media event, the questions were much more about basketball and the coming season than they were about Pierce's past.

Noticeable bulkier, Pierce seemed pleased with the chance to just talk basketball again, and he did so eloquently and with few clichés.

You have transfers in Adam Haluska and Doug Thomas. It's not always an easy adjustment for players to changes schools and systems. How will you try to help them make the adjustment to a new team?

Adam played in the Big Twelve for a year, and that is similar to the Big Ten. They are a physical league, and there are a lot of great teams in that league. Doug Thomas played two years of Juco ball and won two national championships. I don't think it's as big of a deal for the transfers as it is for the freshmen. The freshmen have not played at this level, with the speed and quickness of the college game and the bigger bodies, or adjusting to new coaching philosophies and some of the sets that we like to run offensively and defensively. So I think Adam and Doug will be OK.

When a coach brings in guys from other programs, do you guys track what type of personality he has and what he can do, before you get close to them?

You definitely want to know if a guy will fit with a team's personality. Adam and Doug fit in perfect with this team. We get along on the court, and then we all hang out together. There is continuity there, definitely no selfishness there; we all like to spread the ball around and get everyone involved and a chance to score. It's going to be a team that will be able to get up and down the court, play defense and win some ball games.

Does Doug give you your money's worth in a dunk contest?

Oh…he gives you gives you more than your money's worth. He can really fly. You need to check that out by coming to some of our games early. He will get Carver Hawkeye Arena back to the excitement level that we had when I first came here. Adding those guys to the mix should really do it.

Watching you this summer, it looks like your jump shot has changed a little bit. Have you made any changes in your release?

Yes. I spent a lot of time working on keeping my elbow in. I have had a flaring elbow, where it came out a lot in my shot. So I took a lot of repetitions. Coach Alford worked with me before the summer and then he told me the rest was up to me, since they can't work with us in the summer. I went to a lot of camps, worked out and took a lot of shots this summer working on different aspects of my game. I also spent a lot of time in the weight room, and have added some quickness. I am ready to come out and show the Big Ten that Iowa is for real.

Does Haluska do anything that surprises you? Is he a better player than you thought from having watched him as a freshman?

He is real athletic. He can jump, he can shoot, he is strong defensively. He is probably one of the strongest guys on the team. He is a good addition to the team, and he will help us do the things we want to do well.

How many shots did you take this summer per day?

It ranged. Sometimes it was 100 game shots up per day, sometimes more. Regardless of the number of shots, I was focused on doing the same things with each shot, to get that repetition down and change what was wrong. That is the same thing at the free throw line, as well.

Was the biggest thing your release, or your body?

More so in just keeping the elbow in line with everything else. Through repetitions, everything feels natural now, kind of like a natural body movement.

How far do you think that can take your game, if you feel like you can develop a consistent jump shot?

At this level, teams will scout you a lot. They will look at things you did last year and they will see that I was able to get to the basket a lot. So by adding different elements to your game, it makes it that much harder on the defense. As an offensive player, I always want to be tough to guard. I don't want them to be able to think they can back off of me because I can't shoot, or get up on me because I can't drive. You have to be able to do different things and adjust to game settings.

Don't take this negatively, because you do a lot of things real well. But free throw shooting…do you think teams might try to go to a ‘hack a Shaq' strategy against you late in games, because of your free throw shooting last year?

That is not something that will happen. My competitiveness will not allow that to happen. I am too competitive to go up there and fail. I will knock them down this year at a greater percentage than what I did last year.

But I have to prove myself. It has all been on me. I know teams might try to do that, but I worked very hard in the off-season and now I have to be able to take that to the games.

Is it mental?

If you are a person that is weak mentally, it can get that way. If you let other things distract you or get in your head, it can become mental. But it's more about repetitions and confidence. That is something I have developed over the summer.

Have you matured as a leader over the last couple of years?

I definitely think so. Going through what I went through, then coming back as a team last year with the adversity we faced with some people not being there for us, we were not where we wanted to be in March. But now, Jeff, Greg and I have to step up and be leaders of the team. It's something that we have naturally assumed. We learned as freshman as to what to expect. This is my fourth year here, so I know what coach Alford expects from his team. Now it's time to pass that on to the younger guys, and let them know that come Saturday (10/16, the first day of practice), it's time to get to work.

If you have a great season, will you entertain going pro?

That is something that I don't look ahead to. I am more focused on taking the necessary steps in the preseason, leading up the Big Ten and then eventually getting to the NCAA tournament. I have a lot of college goals that I want to fulfill.

You have not fielded as many questions about the off court incident from 2002, and you have already been through the Big Ten schedule last year as far as knowing what to expect from opposing fans. Does it feel like you can just play basketball now?

That is the way I want it to be, but I will never forget the things I have learned (due to the incident and the discipline that transpired). Hopefully, I have become wiser and will be able to use that as a crossroads in my life. But having Coach Alford in my corner since day one has meant a lot to me. So this year, we will come out onto the court with the guys we have back and the new guys, so I think it's going to be a great year.

What is the most misunderstood thing about Coach Alford?

He is a great coach. He prepares us for every game. Playing for Coach (Bobby) Knight, he took some of those philosophies, he understands the game and he is a great friend to me off the court. This being my fourth year, he is a father figure to me. I don't get to go home as much as a regular college student does, and he is on campus a lot and is someone that is there to speak with. He is a great guy. I think there are a lot of misconceptions about him because we have not won as much as we would have liked, but he is a great person and a great coach. I will always be there for him, just like he was there for me.

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