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December 11, 2017

Carl Pierre is a piece to Matt McCall’s basketball program

(Katherine Mayo/Daily Collegian)

Carl Pierre didn’t want to go to prep school but he was prepared to nonetheless. Having not gained much interest from colleges, it seemed like the most logical route at the time. That was until Matt McCall and Massachusetts called.

McCall, recently hired as the head coach of the Minutemen, brought Pierre in for a visit. Weeks later on June 5, the 6-foot-4 guard committed to McCall’s squad.

“When I came up here, he showed me what type of offense we run and how we get after it on defense,” Pierre said of McCall. “We were in constant contact and he helped me get really comfortable with him and his style of coaching and his style of play so I think it did play a pretty big part because I was in contact with him quite a bit.”

Pierre was one of McCall’s last recruits of the season, joining center Khalea Turner-Morris as the only two true freshmen on the squad. The rest of McCall’s recruiting class consisted of transfers. Curtis Cobb from Fairfield, Jonathan Laurent from Rutgers, Jaylen Brantley from Maryland, Kieran Hayward from Louisiana State and Keon Clergeot from Memphis made up the rest of the recruiting class.

Despite the different college backgrounds, Brantley, Cobb and Pierre all hail from Massachusetts. The addition of the three guards—even though Brantley will be unable to play due to a heart condition that was discovered earlier in the year—makes it a total of seven players currently on the roster who call the commonwealth home.

“We tried when I got the job to really make sure that in recruiting we did a really good job in the state and right off the bat we got Curtis Cobb, Carl Pierre and Jaylen Brantley, three guys from the state and I think that that’s huge,” McCall said after a preseason practice. “I think Carl knows about UMass; I think we got to get more kids who understand how special of a place this is and I think he does. And I think he’ll take tremendous pride running through that tunnel and putting on that jersey every single night. When I was at Florida, there was a sense of pride when you were from the state and you got to put one that jersey. We have to get more kids like that, who are from the state and they have a sense of pride when it comes to putting on that jersey.”

(Zahra Fatehi/Daily Collegian)

For Pierre, a Boston native, staying close to home was a plus.

“I’m a pretty big family guy, so it’s pretty nice being just two hours away from home,” Pierre said. “And it’s great to just be able to represent Massachusetts basketball; that’s a big thing for me.”

With the loss of Brantley, Pierre is bound to see more time on the floor. Through two games the freshman has played an average of 16 minutes going 3-8 from the field. His very first basket came on his very first shot, a 3-pointer from the right wing in the first half against UMass Lowell.

“Here’s a guy like Carl Pierre, we bring him into our program and you think you’re going to bring off the bench, he’s a guy you think is going to play some spot minutes here or there and going to have an impact to now, without Brantley, he’s going to have a big impact,” McCall said. “I think with all these guys it’s what you do with the opportunity. We are going to make the most of it because obviously going forward with commitments and transfers and guys sitting out, there are going to be more horses in the stable next year so you will make the most of the opportunity you have right now.”

Even though Brantley’s injury leaves more of an opening for Pierre to contribute, McCall has so far favored some of his more experienced guards such as sophomore Luwane Pipkins and senior C.J. Anderson. Walk-on junior Rayshawn Miller and redshirt freshman Unique McLean have also received more preference than Pierre.

While experience is limited at the guard position, Pierre has said that having multiple guys to learn from in practice, even those who have transferred, has helped his transition.

“All the other guards on the team, they have their own specific style, their own way of looking at the game and how they approach [it] and it’s nice to see the game from that many different perspectives,” Pierre said. “And it allows me to pick their brains and adopt some of things that they think about into my game.”

Philip Sanzo can be reached at psanzo@umass.edu and followed on Twitter @Philip_Sanzo.

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