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Greene frustrated, but no ODU regrets

Courtesy: ODU Athletics
         
Release: February 27, 2002
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Feb. 27, 2002

By HARRY MINIUM, The Virginian-Pilot © February 25, 2002 Copyright (c) 2002, the Virginian Pilot Reprinted with permission

NORFOLK -- Pierre Greene recently toured the Ted Constant Center, the plush basketball arena scheduled to open next season at Old Dominion University. He can only imagine what it will be like with 8,600 screaming fans inside.

``It's just gorgeous,'' he said of the $71 million facility.

That he will never play there as a Monarch is only one of many frustrations the ODU senior must deal with as his career winds down.

Greene came to ODU from the south side of Chicago after rejecting scholarship offers from Illinois and DePaul. He did so in part because he was promised he would play in the new arena, whose construction started years later than anticipated.

Tonight, he plays his final home game as a senior in the team's last game at the ODU field house when the Monarchs host George Mason.

His first season the Monarchs went 25-9, beating Big East member Seton Hall in the NIT. Since that year, he admits, ``Things just haven't been right since.''

The Monarchs were 11-19 his sophomore year and 13-18 last season, back-to-back campaigns that led to coach Jeff Capel's resignation.

Now he is the only senior on a team that has won three in a row, but is 13-14.

Greene had big dreams when he came to ODU. He promised a CAA championship ring to his parents -- his mother is a Chicago postal worker and his father a driver for Greyhound. And why not? ODU had won league titles and gone to the NCAA tournament two of the four seasons before his signing.

But barring a sweep of the CAA tournament, it won't happen.

``Pierre has had a tough lot in life, to come into what should be a season that's a crowning achievement and he's surrounded by change,'' ODU coach Blaine Taylor said. ``There's a little bit of sadness in that he will be a guy remembered for being part of the transition rather than enjoying some of the good things that are to come.''

In spite of his improved play recently, his senior year has been something of a nightmare, and not just because the Monarchs lost seven of eight games in one stretch.

``With coach Capel, you knew what to expect, you knew how he ran his system and how to go about doing your business,'' Greene said. ``Coach Taylor's a good guy, but it's different. It's the type of adjustment I wouldn't advise anyone to make in their last year. It's like starting over.''

Greene is ODU's acknowledged leader and not just because he is a senior. He's also the team's most mature player. Perhaps being a father helps..

Kayla Greene was born when Greene was a sophomore. He and the child's mother live apart, but Pierre says he plays a major role in the 2-year-old's life. When he isn't practicing or playing at night, he cares for Kayla while her mother works.

``If you see Pierre with his daughter, and see how he treats that little girl, it's just wonderful to be around,'' Taylor said.

Greene said he's skipped the party scene at ODU because of his daughter.

``Having a daughter makes me value things,'' Greene said. ``I can't go out and get into a bar fight because my daughter looks up to me. You have to be smart about the things you're doing, the things you say.''

Greene's maturity also showed last winter after the coaching change. Many of his teammates stopped working out and some began cutting classes. Greene called them together for a tongue-lashing.

``I told them they were only hurting themselves, that you're giving the new coach a chance to say your grades aren't good enough and you're not in shape and we don't need you,'' he said.

Greene has subjugated his scoring this season for the good of the team. His average is down, from 11.7 to 10 points a game. His 44 percent shooting percentage would be among the CAA's leaders if he'd taken enough shots to qualify.

Taylor says Greene has improved over last season. But after being selected a second-team All-CAA choice last season and a preseason first-team choice this season, he has little hope of similar postseason honors.

Nonetheless, Greene hopes his basketball career carries beyond March. He works out each summer with NBA players in Chicago, Michael Jordan among them. He says he hopes his connections will help him play in the CBA or the NBA developmental league and eventually the NBA.

``It's not where you went to school or how many times you were on ESPN, but what you can do on the court that matters,'' said Greene, who will graduate with a degree in communications in May. ``If that doesn't work out, I will have my degree.''

In spite of his problems at ODU, he said he has few regrets. ``I wanted a change in atmosphere,'' he said. ``My whole life, all I knew was the Midwest. I felt like that by going to DePaul and staying in the city, I wouldn't have a chance to mature as a young man. Here, I've matured a lot.'' Mainly because of adversity.

``When I reflect on the past couple of years, it's been a good experience,'' he said. ``It hasn't gone like I wanted because I wanted to win.

``But at the same time, I've learned from all my defeats. I feel like I'm a better person because of all I went through. I've met people who will be my friends for life, and learned lessons I'll never forget.''

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