South's Pierre has learned to harness his emotions

February 26, 2011|By BOB PARASILITI |
  • South Hagerstown's Andre Pierre has helped lead the Rebels to the top seed in the Maryland Class 3A West playoffs.
By Ric Dugan/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — It’s easy being green for Andre Pierre.

And yet, sometimes, it’s impossible.

Pierre wears his South Hagerstown colors with pride, his sole purpose to make the Rebels basketball team the best around. He is a centerpiece of South’s offense with his uncanny ability to play in the paint, even though he is height challenged.

All the ability to compete, rebound and score while underneath the basket gets lost in the heat of battle. When Pierre starts seeing red, he turns greener.

“He’s Bruce Banner,” South Hagerstown coach Kevin Naylor said. “Off the court and when things are going well, he is mild-mannered and easy going. But when he gets on the floor, he changes. He turns into the Incredible Hulk. His emotions take control. He is the nicest nasty kid I have ever met.”

There is no questioning Pierre’s abilities. Even though he is barely 6 feet tall, the senior has all the basketball skills that coaches want in players eight inches taller. He can post up near the basket, take an entry pass and score with relative ease. But more importantly, Pierre has a nose for the ball that allows him to rebound with a vengeance or grab errant shots and score.

“I don’t think it’s an instinct. I just know where the ball is going,” Pierre said. “When I started playing basketball in the junior league in seventh grade, I started out as a point guard. Then, the next year, I was playing down low. Point guard is not for me.”

Pierre has played effectively on the wing for the Rebels, but his strongest suit is under the basket despite the size he gives up to opponents.

“I have a big lower body which helps me and I just feel more comfortable playing inside than outside,” Pierre said. “When you play outside, you have to work more to get your shot. This year, I’m facing up on guys more inside and have been successful because I’m quicker.”

That comfort has helped carry South to the top seed in the Maryland Class 3A West tournament — a huge step for the Rebels, who have spent most of the season playing in the 1A-laden MVAL Antietam Conference.

With comfort comes an edge for Pierre. And sometimes that edge gets rather sharp and cutting.

He goes through a transformation when things are going badly. It might be that he becomes green with jealousy or that things seem to be greener on the other side, Pierre changes at a moment’s notice.

“He is the most competitive kid I have ever met,” Naylor said. “He expects perfection from himself and if things don’t go right, he ‘Hulks.’ He has this competitive spirit and feels he can’t be beat.”

And those times have given Pierre an unflattering reputation.

“It’s just frustration a lot of the time,” Pierre said. “It happens when we are down and we aren’t playing well. Then, a lot of the time, I start blaming the referees when I’m not playing well.”

Pierre admits his greener alter ego shows more often on two special occasions — when the Rebels play against Williamsport or North Hagerstown.

“I’m not that intense when I get outside of sports. I love competition,” Pierre said. “It really comes out when we face the inner city kids who play at Williamsport and North Hagerstown. I have played with them while growing up and in AAU ball. I just want to beat them bad.”

“I just want us to be the best. I don’t look at beating them as I’m the best. I just like to win.”

Winning isn’t the only thing, but being the best he can be is important to Pierre.

Off the court, he carries a straight-A average in the classroom and has done well in college testing. And his drive to win in video games is legendary.

“I don’t get upset, but I like to do better than the other guys,” he said.

His competitive drive came to a head earlier this season and helped Pierre realize that his must-do attitude comes with a price — and some restrictions.

He got in a heated confrontation with some teammates during practice and was tossed out of the gym and suspended for two games by Naylor. The goal was to save the team while proving to Pierre that he isn’t as valuable as he thinks.

“I wanted him to know that we could win without him,” Naylor said. “We win with him but not because of him. He came back and apologized after the first game. He was like he is off the court. He was nice and polite, but not playing was killing him.”

Pierre returned and started a different transformation. He accepted a quieter leadership role while trying to figure out a way to play his “Hulk” style without allowing all the volatile emotions to spill out. It was a process, but Pierre’s “vacation” might have been for the best.

“I tried to use it as a positive,” Pierre said. “When I’m out there, fun and anger are 50-50. It’s fun, but I like to win. It’s more fun when you are winning. I’m pretty much a sore loser.”

Pierre said he would like to continue playing beyond high school and that he has some smaller colleges looking at him. Wherever he goes, it will be different.

He’ll have a clean slate and he won’t have Naylor to help keep him in check.

He will be starting over and it all will be on him.

“I have learned everything from basketball,” Pierre said. “I think I will be fine with a new start and getting away to a new place and making new friends. I think I could handle it by myself. With all the experiences I had here, mentally, I got stronger.”

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