Jon Pierce, Tufts University
By making the front-end of two free throws with 6:34 remaining in the second half of Tufts University's February 2, 2010 men's basketball game vs. UMass Dartmouth, Jumbo tri-captain Jon Pierce made history. The point was the 1,786th of Pierce's career at Tufts, moving him past Greg Davis as the all-time leading scorer in the 106-year history of basketball at Tufts. He finished the season with 1,855 points.
Pierce overcame great adversity while growing up to become the Tufts program's leading scorer. After his adoptive parents divorced, his mother turned physically and emotionally abusive. When Pierce was old enough to fend for himself, he ran away from home several times, once sleeping on the streets for a few nights. When his adoptive mother sought to make him a ward of the state as a young teen, he left for good. During his high school years, he had four different addresses and attended five schools. Verbal abuse was commonplace.
While attending Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, Pierce found family love like he'd never experienced before. He became fast friends with basketball teammate Trygg Larsson-Danforth, even though they came from very different backgrounds. Through their son's friendship with Pierce, Carlene Larsson and Fred Danforth of Belmont, Mass., also developed a close bond with him. When no one showed up for Pierce at his Exeter graduation, it reinforced the Larsson-Danforth family's concern that he had nowhere to go from there. They invited him to live with them for the summer, and eventually invited him to become a part of their family.
Former Tufts assistant coach Reggie Hobbs had recruited Pierce at Exeter and never lost touch with him. In the fall of 2006, Pierce transferred to Tufts. The rest is history. Pierce was selected as D3Hoops.com Preseason All-American in 2008-09. He twice led the New England Small College Athletic Conference in scoring.
"To think that I've come as far as I have now, with the love and support of a great family, being successful at a top-tier school, when seven or eight years ago I didn't know what the next day would bring?" he says. "To think that I've come through all that is humbling in a big way."
"Tufts," Pierce concludes, "has given me hope that the previous 22 years of my life haven't been futile."