Tar Heels add to haul with grad transfer Pierce

ByJeff Borzello ESPN logo
Thursday, May 2, 2019

North Carolina landed a commitment from William & Marygraduate transfer Justin Pierce on Thursday, the Tar Heels' fourth addition in the last two weeks.

Pierce, a versatile 6-foot-7 small forward, was ranked No. 5 in ESPN's graduate transfer rankings. He chose the Tar Heels over Michiganand Notre Dameafter visiting all three schools.

"They offer me the best opportunity to pursue my dreams, on and off the court," Pierce told ESPN. "They need somebody like me who brings versatility on the court and experience, to help them win at the highest level. They're losing Cam Johnson, Luke Maye and Nassir Little, a lot of production from guys in my position.

"Then off the court, I'm able to earn my MBA from their business school, which is a top 10 business school in the country. After my playing career, I want to get into the front office of an NBA organization, and obviously they have as many connections as anybody. Just the overall tradition they have. It's crazy to think I'm part of that. It was too much to pass up."

With Pierce now in the fold, North Carolina has transformed its 2019-20 roster in the last couple weeks. The Tar Heels picked up No. 1 guardCole Anthony, followed the same day by ESPN 100 guard and former Virginia Tech commit Anthony Harris. Last weekend, Charleston Southern graduate transfer Christian Keeling -- No. 7 in ESPN's rankings -- picked Carolina.

With Roy Williams losing his top five scorers from last season -- Johnson, Maye, Little and guards Coby White and Kenny Williams -- he needed to reload.

"It definitely helped. It helped me envision who my teammates are," Pierce said. "A week or two ago, they had four or five open spots. It was more of an unknown. They're all great players. They all bring a different skill set to the table. That group, when you throw me in there as well, along with the group of returnees, we have a chance to be really, really good."

Pierce earned third-team All-CAA honors after averaging 14.9 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists last season. He's hoping to emulate what Johnson -- a graduate transfer who averaged 16.9 points and 5.8 rebounds this past season -- did the last couple seasons in Chapel Hill.

"Seeing what type of impact he had early on his career, it made me comfortable to that system, that style of play, because I like to play up-tempo and fast," Pierce said. "I think I can make a big impact there. They really need someone on the perimeter with size. It's a really unique opportunity for me.

"I bring a lot of experience to the table, because they're going to have a lot of young guys. I pride my game on my versatility. I'm going to do whatever it takes to help the team win. I can obviously score and shoot the ball, but I also consider myself an excellent rebounder for my size. I love to get other guys involved, love to pass the ball. They really liked all those three things I can consistently do at a high level. I can impact a game even if my shot isn't going in that game."

Pierce, who is still only 20 years old, graduates from William & Mary next weekend after three years with the Tribe.