Pierson gives Detroit students a boost before heading overseas

A Fun Farewell

Her team trailing, Plenette Pierson snatched the ball out of the air and, with her back to the basket, scooped it toward the rim – an exercise her rehabilitated right shoulder wouldn’t have allowed her to do in the WNBA Finals two months ago.

Fortunately, the 27-year-old forward wasn’t rallying the Shock against the Silver Stars. Rather, Pierson was assisting a group of students at Detroit’s Oakman Elementary in a lighthearted competition against students from Team Cheryl Ford. Pierson had caught the shot of a young girl, aptly dressed in a Tayshaun Prince jersey, who couldn’t heave the ball high enough to reach its target. It wasn’t the only boost Pierson provided the students Thursday.

“It’s been great fun to be here and impact some students that probably wouldn’t have got out to The Palace to see us play,” Pierson said. “It’s a great thing for us to come out and talk about education as well because education is very important. We didn’t have people like us coming out to our schools when we were growing up, so it’s a great way for us to give back.”

For the second time in as many weeks, Pierson and Ford were on hand for the Pistons-Palace Foundation’s Read to Achieve Tour, which will re-visit each of the 19 Live, Learn and Play Centers opened by the Pistons and Shock since 2002. Ford also helped christen center No. 20 in October at Alcott Elementary in Pontiac, but it’s been a new experience for Pierson, who leaves next week to join her Russian professional team.

After suffering a dislocated shoulder during the Shock’s championship run, Pierson stayed behind at the start of the European season to rehab with Shock trainer Laura Ramus. When Pierson wasn’t enduring grueling therapy sessions, she joined Ford at a series of camps and clinics at schools around Metro Detroit.

Honorary Pistons captain Bruce Tribble, 11, tells Cheryl Ford where the ball is going.
Ryan Pretzer (Shock Photo)
“It’s definitely a fun way to break it up,” said Pierson, who was in a joking mood, even if some of the humor was over the students’ heads. When asked who her favorite NBA player was, Pierson said “Karl Malone,” eager to see the reaction she could rouse from Ford. The students, and most of the adults, didn’t realize Malone, the NBA’s No. 2 all-time scorer, is Ford’s father.

Pierson, who left Texas Tech a few credits shy of completing her degree in communication studies, also was asked how far she got in school. She said she plans to go back to school and finish her degree, potentially taking off a season overseas to do it. But it won’t be this season, as she flies to Moscow Dec. 19 – almost fully healthy. “Shoulder’s doing great,” she said.

Back with Bruce

The Pistons opened the 19th Live, Learn and Play Center at Oakman Elementary/ Orthopedic School last April under extraordinary circumstances. Coinciding with the All-Time Team ceremony celebrating the Pistons’ 50th anniversary in Detroit, a busload of Pistons legends – including Hall of Famers Dave Bing and Bob Lanier – helped open the historically themed center, which includes a Pistons timeline above the back wall and window shades featuring past and current Pistons greats.

It was an appropriate treatment of an equally extraordinary school. Oakman, which serves grades K-5 in addition to physically and health impaired students in Northwest Detroit, came to the Pistons’ attention after one of its students, Bruce Tribble, was a beneficiary of the Pistons’ inaugural “Pistons Cares Telethon Benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Michigan.”

Bruce, now 11, has hydrocephalus, the condition commonly known as “water on the brain.” Often in need of assistance to get around, Bruce wished for a special bike that would help him build up his leg strength. The actual Pistons – Amir Johnson, Rodney Stuckey and former great John Long – personally delivered the bike in August. “Yes, it was so awesome,” said Bruce, who rode his bike the rest of the summer. “It was really awesome.”

The Pistons have made Bruce a bit of a celebrity at Oakman, naming the renovated media center in his honor – and placing his picture on the wall right along those Pistons greats. “My favorite thing to do in there is just look at the Pistons,” he said. “They’re pretty cool.”