If talent alone defined former Iowa Hawkeye Pierre Pierce’s career, you would certainly see his number on a banner in the Carver-Hawkeye Arena. He probably would have been a first round pick and making millions of dollars in the rotation for the NBA team.
He was arguably the best guard in the Big 10, playing against guys like Maurice Ager, Alando Tucker, Luther Head and Dee Brown. He certainly was one of the best players in Hawkeye history and had the skills to make it to the next level.
Instead, Pierce all but ruined his career when he served a year in prison for his second sexual assault charge in 2005. It was two years after he originally was charged for third-degree sexual assault, but pled guilty to a lesser charge, essentially getting a second chance.
Even with the first charge, which enters a lot of grey-area and is more debatable than the second, he could’ve been a mid-late second round draft pick.
Yet after blowing both of his chances, Hawkeye coach Steve Alford kicked Pierce off the team before he was officially convicted, facing pressure from fans and the Athletic Director who believe he was too soft the first time around. That move still angers some people who claim that racist Iowans were too aggressive in prosecuting Pierce.
Partially true, although Pierce agreed to a no-tolerance policy with the university and had no problem with the university’s action (however I do think that some of the public backlash is at least somewhat racially motivated).
Since Pierce’s departure, Iowa hasn’t been the same starting with its 7-9 conference record during the 2004-05 season.
UI bounced back the very next season earning the No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament, but lost in an embarrassing upset to 14th seeded Northwestern State. Alford would have one more year where he failed to get the Hawkeyes into the NCAA or NIT and resigned for a coaching position at New Mexico.
The Hawkeyes are still struggling to become the team it was with Pierce as it is now behind Drake in owning Iowa basketball for the first time in team history. During this time, Pierce has redefined himself.
He served 332 days in prison and received another punishment on top of that for violating probation by participating with the Gold State Warriors’ summer league team. He once again proved his talent, averaging an efficient 21 points per game, but his probation kept him from leaving Illinois so he lives with his mother and helps his friend run a construction business.
Pierce’s probation was supposed to last until 2010, where he would be nearly 27 before he is officially released. However, a judge recently ruled that Pierce has behaved well enough so that he can now play basketball in France where he will earn a nice living for himself, although nothing like what he would earn on an NBA contract.
The former Iowa star is now an entirely different person than he was in 2005. He goes to a psychiatrist, spends a lot of time with his family, and receives anger management counseling. Even when he played with the Warriors in the Las Vegas summer league, Truehoop’s Henry Abbott reported on how much maturity Pierce gained last year.
Pierce brought his father with him and refused to go out despite the lure of being in Vegas. He is much more humble than he was at Iowa. His victims’ parents and many anti-Pierce residents in Iowa likely wish that he never plays basketball again and has to continue living with his mother.
The problem with this thinking is that Pierce already served time in jail. His probation will be finished in a little more than a year and his accomplishments at Iowa will never be appreciated so he can forget about a banner with his name for it. How much more punishment does he really deserve? Now is the time for Pierce finally to get another mulligan.
Pierce has shown that he was not worthy of a second chance, but there is no question that if anyone deserves a third, it’s him.
Either way, he’s served his sentence and does not need to be further punished by not playing basketball. Going to France will be a great beginning for his professional basketball career, but he eventually needs to get a real opportunity at playing in the NBA.
My prediction is that he’ll get it before the 2010-11 season when he will have a clean slate with two years of pro experience. I wouldn’t want an NBA team to even bother talking to him right out of college, but six years after he committed his second instance of sexual abuse is plenty of time to ensure Pierce doesn’t cause more problems.
If Adam “Pacman” Jones and Josh Hamilton can be forgiven for their run-ins with the law, then the NBA should give the same opportunity to Pierce. He’s got more than enough talent to make a team’s roster and he would be very coachable. What’s most important is that he might not have matured with a second chance, but on the third, I have no doubt that he has finally grown up.