After Tyler Pierre’s final exit meeting as a member of the Oswego State men’s basketball team, head coach Jason Leone gave his senior permission to sit at his desk for this interview. Leone added “you earned it” as he walked out of his office.
The reality is, Pierre initially was not suppose to be having his last exit meeting in Oswego when he started playing college basketball. He was supposed to be home. Playing Div. II basketball for Dowling College, just 15 minutes away from his hometown in Deer Park, New York.
After completing his freshman season for Dowling, Pierre received an email from his school that following Summer it will be closing for the Fall semester due to financial issues.
“At first it was like ‘dang, where I am going to get my education?’,” Pierre said. “My second worry is where I was going to play next year.”
Then came Leone, coming off his fifth season in 2015 under the helm at Oswego, and a historic trip to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history. He noticed the closing of Dowling College online after the fact, and researched more into Pierre as a potential recruit having a need for another big man on the upcoming roster.
“My grandfather passed away the next day, I hopped into a car the day after that and went down to Long Island and stayed there until I convinced him to come,” Leone said. “I wouldn’t leave him alone until he was a Laker. I was so blown away by his family, him and how articulate he was.”
Pierre indeed did come up to Oswego to visit and was “blown away” himself. Once he walked into Max Ziel Gymnasium and learned more about program, he found his new home.
“It was like an eye-opener for me, from that point on I knew I had to come here,” Pierre said.
The Laker men’s basketball team was an established program. Pierre in his first season needed to make his way into a rotation that returned two of its starters in the frontcourt, and backup 6-10 center, Mykelle Krecko.
“It was a good experience for me to come up here and become the man I was made to be,” Pierre said.
The Lakers did go on to have yet another successful campaign in Pierre’s sophomore season, finishing in first place in their conference to host the SUNYAC Championship. After a dramatic overtime victory in the semifinals, they were set to play in the title game the next day against SUNY Oneonta. A day where many learned who Tyler Pierre was.
Coming off the bench, Pierre grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds and scored 15 points in the biggest game of the season, leading Oswego to a third SUNYAC Championship in six seasons. He went on to be named to the All-Tournament team as well.
“It definitely disrupted our game plan at the time,” said James Holmes, current assistant at Oswego and former graduate assistant of Oneonta at the time. “I remember after the game discussing with the staff how impressed we were with his performance that night. It was unbelievable.”
Pierre’s junior season although did endure its struggles for the Lakers. Despite making it back to SUNYAC semifinals, they finished with just a 14-13 record. Pierre, however, did get named to Third Team All-SUNYAC, averaging 10.4 points and 8.3 rebounds a game.
It was still a disappointment to the Lakers’ standards, something Pierre and company were determined to fix.
“We came together at the end of the season and had a meeting to talk about all the negative things,” Pierre said. “And the positive things we wanted to achieve for the following season.”
In 2018-19, the Lakers were back. They added key pieces and showed overall improvement to the roster, but more notably featured a breakout season from the 6-6 center out of Deer Park.
“He improved an incredible amount this year,” Leone said. “I actually don’t think I’ve ever had a player here make a jump in a years time from on an offensive standpoint as much as Tyler has.”
Pierre would help lead the Lakers to their fourth SUNYAC title this season in the last eight years, going on to be named Tournament MVP after a pair of double-doubles in the tournament.
Receiving an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament, the team made it back to the Sweet 16, but came up short. It was the end of his playing career, but Pierre’s service and impact has only begun.
After giving his time as a student-athlete in the Port City, the senior graduating as a Criminal Justice major this May is set to pursue his dream, and will enlist into the United States Marines Corps in hopes to one day become a Secret Service Agent.
“I couldn’t think of anybody better to serve our country than that guy,” Leone said. “He’s about strong willed and tough-minded, and all the things the Marines preach, Tyler has all those attributes.”