Jon Teitel's "Forgotten Legends": Lipscomb Great John Pierce

    
August 14th, 2012
In the lastest installment in his "Forgotten Legends" interview series, CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with Lipscomb great John Pierce. During his four seasons in Nashville, Pierce lit up scoreboards to the tune of 4,230 points, a college record that stands to this day. After a five-year career in Australia and Japan, Pierce returned to Nashville where he's now a teach and coach at Franklin Road Academy.

Jon Teitel: In 1990 you came to Lipscomb and were roommates with Philip Hutcheson, who finished his career as college basketball's all-time leading scorer (4106 PTS). What was he like as a roommate, and did you feel pressure to fill his large shoes after he graduated?

John Pierce: Living with Philip was a great way for me to start my time at Lipscomb. Not only was he a great basketball player, but he was also a great friend. At that time coach Don Meyer tried to room seniors with incoming players, so I was able to learn not just about how the basketball team worked but also all about the school. I could not have asked for a better roommate. He never seemed upset to have a freshman rooming with him, but instead he included me throughout the campus in different activities.

It would have probably been good if he had washed his sheets at least once every semester, but that is a different story! I did not feel like I had to fill his shoes after he graduated because at that time we were playing different positions. As a redshirt I was learning behind our power forward Darren Henrie (a two-time All-American), so I was much more focused on Darren and how I could possibly try to play like him and fill his shoes.

JT: You had 22 points and nine rebounds in 21 minutes in your Lipscomb debut. How were you able to come in and contribute from the start?

JP: Being able to have a redshirt year really helped me grow physically, as I went from 6-5, 185 pounds as a high school senior to 6-7, 235 pounds in my first year on the court for Lipscomb. I was also able to learn about the system that Coach Meyer used so I was ready mentally. I was also fortunate to get to play center in a system whose main focus was to get the ball inside, which meant that I was always going to get opportunities to score.

JT: In 1992 you scored 54 points to break Bruce Bowers' school record. Was it just one of those scenarios where every shot you put up seemed to go in because you were "in the zone", and did Bowers (who was in the stands that night) say anything to you after the game?

JP: I never talked to Bowers (which is sort of ironic because he was in the stands that night), but it was not that strange for former players to be at games. It was a very tight community and we are all extremely proud to have played for the Bisons and Coach Meyer. There is a level of understanding that we all have for each other as far as what we went through in our time at Lipscomb.

That particular night was like most games as far as our focus as a team, to get the ball inside first and take perimeter openings from there. I guess the team we were playing was not as focused on stopping the post game that night! Usually teams would focus on doubling the post or slowing the post down if we got rolling in there, and then the perimeter would open up.

JT: On February 24, 1994 you made a bank shot against Cumberland to break Hutcheson's record and become college basketball's all-time leading scorer. What do you remember about that night, and how did it feel to break the record?

JP: I remember several things. I remember the excitement in McQuiddy Gym that night: it was sold out and there were news crews there to cover the story, as well as many of my family members from out of town and friends from all over. I felt a lot of pressure to get the record that night because of the amount of people that were there to see it. I remember that Cumberland really tried to stop the ball from coming inside to me so my teammate Andy McQueen (who had a college basketball record 515 career three-pointers) made a school-record 11 threes that night. I remember I shot a lot of free throws I think the referees wanted to see the record broken as well. I remember getting the game ball after breaking the record and throwing it to my father who was sitting in my parents' usual seats on the rail of the second level.

JT: Your 4,230 career points is still the most ever scored by a college basketball player. Do you think anyone will ever break your record, and how proud are you of that achievement?

JP: I really do not think much about it: it is really more of a testament to the program that I played for. I have great pride to have played for Lipscomb and Coach Meyer. I am sure the record will be broken one day: that is what records are for. It is obvious to me that it would only be broken by someone who played all four years for a small school. Anyone at a Division I school who was averaging 30 points per game as an underclassman would opt to play in the NBA before graduating.

JT: You also hold the school record with 1,497 career rebounds. How were you able to get so many rebounds while making so many shots?

JP: We got a lot of shots up because we had a lot of possessions. I was never a very good rebounder or defender. I liked scoring too much so I focused too much on that. However, because we had so many possessions there were a lot of rebounds to be had in our games.

JT: You were named All-American during each of your four seasons, and you were named NAIA National Player of the Year in both 1993 and 1994. Were you just better than everyone else on the court, and why did you decide to go to Lipscomb instead of to a Division I basketball power?

JP: I chose Lipscomb for a couple of reasons. I really wanted to go to Vanderbilt but they did not want me. As I was a 6-5, 185-pound post player coming out of high school I was sort of an in-between guy, so my choice of Division I colleges was pretty limited. I really wanted to go to a program where I had a chance to win a championship and the Division I schools that offered me a scholarship did not have championship-caliber teams at that time. I also had a lot of respect for Coach Meyer and felt that he would improve my game and improve me as a person more than most of the other coaches who recruited me.

My best friend from high school Mark Campbell (who has won four NAIA titles since 2005 as coach of the Union University Lady Bulldogs) had already signed with Lipscomb, which I knew would make the transition to a new place easier for me. The Lipscomb players also did a very good job of recruiting me when I was in high school. I remember Philip Hutcheson coming to many of my high school games during my senior year. He even came to some of my soccer games in the spring after basketball season was over!

JT: After graduating you played five years in Australia and Japan. What did you learn from the experience, and how did it compare to college basketball?

JP: My time in Australia and Japan was fantastic. I was able to take my wife with me for the last three years overseas, and it was a chance for us to almost have an extended honeymoon. We were able to see things we would never had a chance to see and spend so much time together getting to know each other. We moved back to Nashville when she got pregnant with our first child.

Basketball overseas was good but more of a business, and I missed the camaraderie of my college teams. I made some very good friends in my travels around the world (some who I still talk with regularly), and got to visit places that I never would have gone to otherwise. Overall, basketball has given me many opportunities that I am extremely thankful for.

JT: You currently are a teacher and coach at Franklin Road Academy in Nashville. Which job do you enjoy the most, and what do you hope to do in the future?

JP: I do not see a lot of difference in my roles as a teacher and coach, but I do enjoy the coaching more than the teaching. There are more opportunities for kids to learn some life lessons when you are on the court than when you are in the classroom. As a coach, the best part of being a coach is when you can get a kid to totally invest in the idea of "team" over the idea of "self", and that opportunity presents itself many more times on a basketball team than in a classroom. I think I will always be coaching in some form or fashion for the rest of my life.

Pierce is also on Jon's list of best fantasy player in Atlantic Sun history.

East Tennessee State: Keith Jennings (1991) 1,988 PTS (#4), 983 AST (#1), 334 STL (#1), 223 3PM (#2), 49.3 3P% (#1), 86.1 FT% (#2), All-American, 2-time conference POY
Florida Gulf Coast: Bryan Crislip (2005) 985 PTS (#3), 373 REB (#2), 606 AST (#1), 194 STL (#1)
Jacksonville: Ben Smith (2010) 1,971 PTS (#2), 515 AST (#1), 230 STL (#1), 220 3PM (#2)
Kennesaw State: Ronell Wooten (2008) 1,633 PTS (#2), 615 REB (#5), 262 3PM (#1)
Lipscomb: John Pierce (1994) 4,230 PTS (#1), 1,497 REB (#1), 4-time All-American, 2-time national POY
Mercer: James Florence (2010) 2,287 PTS (#1), 436 AST (#2), 222 STL (#1), 242 3PM (#1)
North Florida: Donny Lotz (2005) 1,412 PTS (#2), 660 REB (#2), 77 BLK (#2), 105 STL (#4)
Northern Kentucky: Craig Sanders (2002) 2,007 PTS (#1), 356 3PM (#1)
Stetson: Kerry Blackshear (1996) 1,826 PTS (#1), conference POY
USC Upstate: Ulysses Hackett (1992) 2,688 PTS (#1), 908 REB (#2), 227 STL (#3), 67.1 FG% (#1), 3-time All-American, 2-time conference POY