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Strickland: Canadian Pierre riding high on Dayton's dreams

Will Strickland, TSN 1050

3/29/2014 1:42:27 PM

When I was young, they kept feeding me fairy tales. You may have a similar story.

But maybe... Just maybe... This is one time when make believe should make you believe.

How long does Cinderella stay at the dance? Sometimes, the carriage doesn't turn into a pumpkin.

Right now, Whitby, Ontario's DyShawn Pierre, small forward for the No. 11 seed Dayton Flyers of the Atlantic-10 Conference, is living the fairy tale during March Madness.

After defeating in-state rival The Ohio State University Buckeyes, then to go on to edge a team who spent much of the regular season as the No. 1 team in the country in the Syracuse Orange, led by Brampton, Ontario's Tyler Ennis, Pierre and his mates kept the dream alive by slaying another dragon in the Stanford Cardinal, a solid team led by two other Canadians, Dwight Powell and Stefan Nastic.

DyShawn and his teammates have pushed forward to take the Flyers back to a place they haven't been in 30 years, The Elite Eight.

Standing in the path to the yellow brick road of the Final Four is an extremely tough, senior-laden, defensive-minded University of Florida Gators squad.

With a coach in Archie Miller, who implicitly trusts every player on the Dayton Flyer roster, from the first man to the 12th, DyShawn Pierre is set to lead his team further on their quest for the ultimate brass ring: The NCAA Men's Basketball Championship.

I sat down with DyShawn Pierre to find out if the soft-spoken sophomore is really a lion disguised as a lamb.

Who is DyShawn Pierre?

Oooh! I never really thought about that before, but... in terms of basketball, I'd say I'm a total team guy. Outside of that, I'm just a guy who's truly concerned about others... God, family, friends... those things are important to me.

In three words, how would your teammates and friends describe you?

Ummm... Passionate. Aggressive. Can I get back to you on the third one?

In three words, would your coaches describe you in the same way?

I hope they see me as a player who can help make the game better for me and my teammates, who just plays the game hard and competes. But I'd say... Ummm... Coachable. Humble. Quiet.

How heavy is the Dayton Flyers' bandwagon now that you guys slayed a couple huge dragons in The Ohio State University and Syracuse?

(Laughs) I don't know about that. We do know we have a lot of people behind us, but what these guys in the locker room... what we do together with the help of the coaches and of course the fans is a blessing. We just want to take it as far as we can.

Describe your mindset once you knew your team would be facing OSU.

It was very exciting. Playing in March Madness is an honour. Playing with a guy who transferred from Ohio State gave it some other elements, but we just see it as another opportunity to prove ourselves.

Was there a lot of personal, in-state rivalry talk and emotion involved?

No, it wasn't really personal. I mean, we have Jordan Sibert, who transferred from OSU and guys from Ohio, but all we wanted to do is compete and get the win, no matter who was in front of us.

Now that you've beaten Stanford, how do you think you guys match up against Florida?

Honestly, I haven't been watching too much, really. Florida's very good. They were No. 1 in the country...the No. 1 seed in the entire tournament. It's going to be a tough matchup. But we're here for a reason, too.

What's the best thing about this March Madness experience for you?

Anything can happen. People don't believe in the Dayton Flyers. We do. We stick together. We believe.

With so many Canadians affecting the outcomes of games in a major way in March Madness, what do you think this means for the future of the Canadian National Team?

Our national team has a very bright future. Steve Nash, Jay Triano and Rowan Barrett have done a great job in developing the program. The coaching is excellent. I would love to play if I were invited to compete. With so many other great young players in the program, I'd love to go back to compete and contribute.

We've seen players have big March Madness performances in the past and turn that into a high NBA draft status. Has this been something you've thought about seriously at all?

Not really. I mean, it's a dream. But right now, I'm very focused on what we're trying to achieve here at Dayton. It's a special group of guys and I love how together we are and what I think we can accomplish.

You're climbing up the list of most famous people from Whitby, Ontario. There's former two-time Stanley Cup champ and Olympic Gold Medalist NHLer Adam Foote, the late WWE wrestler Test (Andrew Martin), the rapper/musician k-os... and you! Do you climb that list with every March Madness win?

(Laughs) I guess so. I didn't even know there was a list like that. Whatever happens, my team and I have gotten a lot of support from fans, friends and family. While I can't respond to each and every one personally, I am grateful... very thankful to everyone. This whole experience has been awesome. I won't forget it.

If DyShawn Pierre had to walk away from basketball forever after Dayton wins the National Championship, what would he do with the rest of his life?

What? NOOO! I really couldn't see my life without basketball. I really love the game. Somehow, someway, I would want to be a part of something basketball-related. More than anything, though, I'd just like to enjoy life. It's been a humbling experience so far. I can't wait to see what the future holds.