Lucious Jordan, Carl Pierre bond strengthens in new roles

  • Carl Pierre, right, of UMass, moves the ball against Christian Ings, of Rider, Nov. 20 at the Mullins Center in Amherst. Pierre and assistant Lucious Jordan worked together to improve Pierre’s overall game. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 11/28/2019 8:52:35 AM

AMHERST — If it weren’t for Lucious Jordan, Carl Pierre very well might not have been a Minuteman.

When Matt McCall was hired as the new UMass coach, he hired Jordan as his director of basketball operations. Before he came to Amherst, though, Jordan was an assistant coach at Siena, where he first stumbled across Pierre’s high school tape. When Jordan arrived to his new position, he knew the Minutemen had to get involved in recruiting the Boston native.

“At any level of basketball in general, if you can shoot, there’s a place for you,” said Jordan, now in his first season as an assistant coach. “As soon as I saw it, I said ‘we have to get involved with that kid’ because he’s just this long and lanky kid but when I saw the film, he didn’t miss a single shot, every shot whether it was mid-range or a 3 and he got it off so effortlessly and so quick.”

A few months later, Pierre committed to the Minutemen and the bond between coach and player began. Even when Jordan wasn’t allowed to be with Pierre on the court due to NCAA rules, the two of them would watch tape for hours and dissect Pierre’s game. Those meetings proved especially valuable to Pierre, who said those hours watching tape helped him understand the game better.

Now that Jordan is an assistant coach, however, the two can do far more work on the court before and after practice to help elevate Pierre’s skillset. Although neither party said the new dynamic has changed their relationship, McCall said he’s noticed the two of them grown closer in recent months as Jordan as settled into his new role as an assistant.

“It’s grown because Lucious can do so much more out on the floor,” McCall said. “He’s not allowed to do anything on the floor when you’re an ops guy, you have to rely on meetings. You don’t get to snap passes and sweat and spend time in the gym and do those types of things, so no question it’s helped their relationship grow.”

Jordan and Pierre spent most of this summer trying to fine-tune Pierre’s game in anticipation for the attention he would receive from opposing defenses. Both coach and player knew the scouting report against Pierre and how to guard him, and it was especially effective at times last season as teams adjusted to Pierre being the Minutemen’s top offensive option.

So the goal this offseason was to help develop Pierre’s basketball knowledge and learn how to attack the different schemes opponents would use to try and slow him down.

“The scouting report for Carl was always he’s going to try to drive one way and just try to defend him and go at him on defense,” Jordan said. “Now a lot of teams are going to be paying very close attention to him. They were before, but he’s our returning leading scorer so he’s going to get all sorts of different defenses, so my thing for him was learning how to read defenses. When guys are closing out on him, learn how to put the ball on the floor and do different things. I don’t want him to be just a spot-up shooter, I want him to be a basketball player as a whole.”

Pierre has still done most of his damage from behind the 3-point arc through the first seven games of this season, but he has also been more aggressive at attacking the paint. In last week’s 82-72 win over Rider, Pierre scored a season-best 23 points, but did so with five two-point baskets. He made a noted effort to drive to the basket and keyed a critical run for the Minutemen with a pair of hard attacks at the rim.

“Toward the end of last year, I started getting aggressive going to the rim,” Pierre said after the win over Rider. “Going to the rim is big for getting yourself into the game, getting a rhythm, getting a feel for the game and eventually the outside shots become easier. For my game, it’s big, it makes me harder to guard. I’m trying to get away from just being a catch-and-shoot player.”

As much as Jordan is helping Pierre on the court, the junior guard said he also talks to Jordan a lot about other things about his life. Pierre said he appreciates the relationship he has with Jordan because the coach is willing to help him improve as a person in addition to as a basketball player.

But another key attribute connecting them is Pierre’s goal of playing professional basketball. Jordan realized that dream in the Netherlands after finishing a playing career at Albany, and Pierre said it’s important for him to glean as much knowledge as he can from someone who had success doing what he hopes to do in the future.

“I feel like me and him are constantly communicating,” Pierre said. “That’s my guy. ... I value it a lot. He played in college, he was a pro and I want to get to where he was, so why not pick his brain.”

Josh Walfish can be reached at jwalfish@gazettenet.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoshWalfishDHG. Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at www.facebook.com/GazetteUMassCoverage.



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