Plenette Pierson: Tulsa’s designated leader
There is no doubt about who the leader is on the Tulsa Shockâ€™s squad. Seven-year veteran forward Plenette Pierson is not the oldest player on the team but she is the one with the most experience. While there are five players on the training camp roster who were members of the team before it moved from Detroit, only Pierson and center Kara Braxton have bragging rights as winners of two championships (2006 and 2008) with the previous incarnation of the team.
For Pierson, the expectations of leadership in Tulsa came shortly after she arrived in the city over a month ago.
â€œI think from day one. Coach Richardson sat me down and told me thatâ€™s what he wanted me to be,â€ she says in discussing when it became clear to her that she was taking on that role. Additionally, she lauds the experience and strengths of her teammates.
â€œI think the other players coming in have great experience. Everybodyâ€™s experiences have been different. I think that usâ€¦all together will help better this team, and you know, go as far as the playoffs.â€
The official announcement that the former Detroit franchise was moving to Tulsa came last fall and leaders statewide, from the governor to the mayor, lined up to show their support of the team. Richardsonâ€™s past accolade, as the coach who led the University of Tulsa to the NIT championship in 1981, no doubt played into the positive reception the team received and is still enjoying.
â€œI like the city and the people already,â€ says Pierson, â€œand Iâ€™m excited to get out there and keep playing. Theyâ€™ve been very warming and accepting of us and weâ€™re just excited to be here.â€
What has it been like for Pierson to practice Richardsonâ€™s famous â€œ40 minutes of hellâ€ system?
â€œLots of hard work,â€ she says. â€œFast-paced but we all know itâ€™s for a good cause. Weâ€™ve all bought into it and weâ€™re just ready to see how it works against other teams.â€
Nothing about Richardson or his system surprised her except for the endurance the team is exhibiting.
â€œI donâ€™t think anything has surprised me besides the fact that we can go an hour, an hour and a half practicing. I think thatâ€™s about the only thing.â€
Mentally, she feels players came prepared to be a part of his system.
â€œWe just came in with an open mind,â€ she says â€œand we were willing to do whatever he asked us to do.â€
Her thoughts on the performance of Marion Jones in training camp reflected on the ability of a former elite athlete who trained at the highest level for an extended period of time to bounce back from a lapse in competition and conditioning.
â€œMarionâ€™s a hard worker. Sheâ€™s a true athlete,â€ says Pierson. â€œYou know, athletes when they put their mind to anything they can play, they can do anything they want and thatâ€™s what sheâ€™s doing. Sheâ€™s been away from basketball for a while but I think just being out here with us and working hard sheâ€™s getting back to her old self. I think itâ€™s like riding a bicycle â€“ you donâ€™t ride it for a while, you kind of forget but sheâ€™s a fantastic player, a fantastic rookie. Sheâ€™s just going out here and working hard everyday trying to get better.â€
Earlier this year, she reached out to Baylor freshman phenom Brittney Griner after the college player came under intense scrutiny for punching a Texas Tech player during a heated game. Pierson indentified with Griner because of the negative publicity she experienced after the infamous Detroit-Los Angeles brawl in 2008 when she and other players were suspended for several games for fighting. But Pierson makes it clear that the â€œBad Girlsâ€ persona of the defunct Detroit Shock is not how she perceives herself and that she learned from that situation and moved on with a positive outlook.
â€œIâ€™ve been perceived as a person thatâ€™s been very aggressive and very angry and you know for me thatâ€™s just different,â€ she says â€œIâ€™m two different people on and off the floor. On the court, I am an aggressive player but not to the extent that Iâ€™d like to cause injury to someone else or be malicious and the incident that I had in 2008 with Candace Parker was all just emotion. I regret everything that happened that day and Iâ€™ve tried to move forward from that place and tried to rectify my character and hopefully people will perceive me differently.â€
In reaching out to Griner, she was not all concerned about the irony of a Texas Tech alum trying to give a helping hand to a Baylor player and the reaction of Red Raiders fans.
â€œAt this point Iâ€™m 28 years old and Iâ€™m out of school,â€ she says, â€œand you know any young person that I can help out, Iâ€™m there for them. It doesnâ€™t matter if they went to UT or Baylor or A&M. It doesnâ€™t matter. Iâ€™m going to try to do what I can, to do my part and be a role model and let them know if they keep their heads up, theyâ€™ll be OK.â€
She also expressed empathy for Detroit-area fans that are still bitter about the teamâ€™s departure from Michigan.
â€œItâ€™s hard to part with a teamâ€¦but Iâ€™ve reached to a lot of them, theyâ€™ve reached out to me on Facebook and Twitter.â€ She says that fans are wishing the best for them in Tulsa and will follow the team when it comes close to Detroit to play.
Tulsa takes on the Seattle Storm Sunday afternoon in a preseason scrimmage that is closed to the public. Pierson is optimistic about the teamâ€™s preparation for the matchup.
â€œIt kind of amazes me how fast weâ€™ve adapted into a system,â€ she says. â€œItâ€™s kind of a tough system to adapt to being that thereâ€™s so many different things, so many different elements that you have to learn. You have to learn to take the better shots as well as play at a fast pace but I think these girls that we have on this team have a very a good basketball IQ that they have adapted and just grasped the knowledge and everything that coach Richardson is throwing out with us for the systemâ€¦.Some people have only been here for three days so itâ€™s amazing for us to just be out there and understand the system this far.â€
PERSONAL: Born August 31, 1981, in Houston, Texas
FULL NAME: Plenette Michelle Pierson
HIGH SCHOOL: Kingwood (Kingwood, Texas)
COLLEGE: Texas Tech
TRANSACTIONS/CAREER NOTES: Selected by Phoenix in first round (fourth overall) of WNBA Draft, April 25, 2003. Traded by Phoenix to Detroit for Andrea Stinson, June 29, 2005.
ACCOLADES: Winner of WNBA’s first Sixth Woman of the Year award (2007). Member of WNBA Championship Team (2006, 2008).