Joey St. Pierre has been ahead of the curve since he entered the world Nov. 28, 1998.
St. Pierre was early – arriving 12 days ahead of his mother Karen’s due date – and he measured 23 inches, almost 3 inches longer than the norm for babies.
“My mom was in the waiting room and the doctor told her, ‘You have a grandson, and his hands and feet are bigger than mine,’ ” Karen said. “[Joey] was destined to be big.”
In kindergarten and through grade school, St. Pierre towered over his classmates. Even last year, Nippersink Middle School’s eighth-grade basketball team looked like it had a high school senior playing post.
Richmond-Burton boys basketball coach Brandon Creason and his team are excited by the prospect of having St. Pierre, a 6-foot-71/2, 241-pound incoming freshman, in the lineup next season.
Basketball definitely will become more challenging for St. Pierre, but Creason feels his young big man can make a significant impact on a team with loads of experienced players returning.
“Kids are going to catch up with him now,” Creason said. “He’s been the biggest guy for a while. Physically, there are going to be some guys as big, stronger, faster. He’s going to have to get used to the speed. That’s going to be the biggest difference.”
Creason figures St. Pierre, as a seventh-grader, could have cracked R-B’s varsity rotation, and last year he could have started for the Rockets, whose tallest player was 6-3.
“At first, I was really nervous, but it’s starting to get more natural,” St. Pierre said. “After every game I’m starting to know the guys more and talk to them and become friends with them. I just want to play solid, limit my turnovers, play good defense and score.”
St. Pierre also will have the seasoning of four years in travel basketball heading into his first varsity season. He previously played with Full Package and joined the Wisconsin Playground Warriors this spring. Creason likes the physical tools he sees in St. Pierre, who wears size-17 shoes and dunked in seventh-grade games when he was 6-5.
“The way he runs down the floor, he has light feet, he kind of glides,” Creason said. “It’s exciting because he’s so gifted physically. I think of [Johnsburg’s] C.J. Fiedorowicz kind of gliding down the floor for how big he is. Joey has some of that same makeup. Joe has to realize right now his résumé’s blank at the high school level. He’s not done anything yet. As long as he’s not satisfied, he can play at a high level. If he gets satisfied and thinks he’s good enough, we’re going to have trouble.”
Nippersink’s seventh-graders lost once two years ago; the eighth-graders were undefeated last year. Creason saw games in which St. Pierre hardly scored because he would rip down a rebound and fire an outlet pass for an easy basket on the other end.
R-B guard Sam Kaufman’s freshman brother Jake was one of those Nippersink guards, so he knows St. Pierre better than most of his varsity teammates.
“Joe works really hard,” Sam Kaufman said. “Joe and I and my little brother are always working out in the gym, getting shots up. I know he’s put in enough work to be a varsity player. He’s a good kid. He’s good to have in the locker room; he gets along with everyone. We’ve been looking forward to it since last year.”
R-B has Sam Kaufman, Danny Rygiel, Mike Kaska and Brian Wells who can provide scoring. Creason likes that St. Pierre can be one of several offensive options.
“The advantage he has with us is we have a lot of returning guys,” Creason said. “Joey’s fortunate enough to be with an experienced team. That goes a long way with a freshman. He has guys who have put in some time who can help him along. We want him demanding the ball. We want him to look to score.”
On June 21 at a one-day tournament in Elkhorn, Wis., St. Pierre showed some nice touch around the basket and at the free-throw line. He also showed a dimension Creason hopes to exploit when he took a pass in the high post, turned and fired a pass to Kaufman for the winning layup against Beloit Turner in the semifinal game.
“We want to move him around a little bit and use the fact he has such good feet and soft hands,” Creason said. “We don’t just have to ask him to hold the block, which is hard for a lot of players to do, let alone a freshman. A 14- or 15-year-old to hold the block, that’s tough. We want to move him around, do some screen-and-roll, but he has moves inside. He’s getting better. He can improve those and improve his scoring mentality.”