State Colleges

St. Thomas forward Dannisha Pierce thrives in comeback

Dannisha Pierce is making a bit of an odd comeback.

Normally, a player comes back from something negative such as an injury.

But Pierce has resumed playing basketball after something quite positive — she graduated from St.Thomas University in the spring of 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

After that, Pierce, a 5-11 forward, went back home to New Haven, Connecticut, and started applying for jobs with the police force and also as a juvenile detention trainee. But then … she got no responses.

When no one offered a job, Pierce, who had redshirted her freshman season because of an ACL injury to her right knee, started to rethink her options.

And since she had one year of eligibility left at St.Thomas, she called second-year coach Albrey Grimsley and asked if the former Miami Hurricanes guard was interested in her coming back.

“When I was a freshman, Coach Grimsley was here as an assistant, so I already knew her, and that helped,” Pierce said. “She was excited to hear from me.”

With Grimsley’s blessing, Pierce decided to return for her final season of college basketball while she works on her master’s degree in elementary education.

That degree, Pierce figures, will double her chances of getting a job. She wants to work with children in some capacity, either as a teacher or counseling kids through the juvenile-detention system.

Many of the kids in juvenile detention, Pierce said, come from difficult backgrounds and just need guidance. Pierce can certainly relate — she lost her mother, Geanine, because of kidney failure. Geanine was 34 at the time.

“I was nine,” Pierce said. “That was hard for a kid. Luckily, I had basketball. I think basketball saved me.”

Pierce, who turns 23 next week, knows she can’t save all the kids.

“My goal is to save some,” Pierce said. “If I can make a difference in even just a couple of kids’ lives, I will feel great.”

In the meantime, Pierce is making a difference on the St.Thomas basketball team, which competes as an NAIA program.

On Nov.21, she tied the single-game school record with 20 rebounds. She also had 23 points in that game to become the first player in school history to record a 20-20 game.

Pierce, the program’s career leader in points and rebounds, has helped St.Thomas get off to a 5-3 start. She leads her team in scoring (19.0), rebounding (10.6), steals (4.5) and minutes (35.0) and has been named the Sun Conference Player of the Week twice in the past month.

In addition, she leads the nation in offensive rebounds per game (6.0), has the school’s single-game record for steals (10) and career record for double-doubles (27).

Grimsley said conditioning wasn’t Pierce’s favorite thing as a freshman. But Pierce has worked hard to improve, making an impact on and off the court.

“She’s very mature for her age,” Grimsley said of Pierce. “And she’s very hands-on when we do our community service.”