Glenbard West’s Caden Pierce (3) pushes the tempo as Hinsdale Central’s Jake Quast (32) defends. | Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times
Caden Pierce, a versatile 6-5 wing for one of the state’s top teams, committed to Princeton on Monday.
Another Glenbard West star is off the board.
Last week Braden Huff committed to Gonzaga. Shooter Bobby Durkin and big man Ryan Renfro both recently committed to Army. This week Caden Pierce, a versatile 6-5 wing for one of the state’s top teams, committed to Princeton.
With double digit Division I offers after a solid and ultra-productive spring and summer with his high school team and the Illinois Wolves on the club circuit, Pierce ultimately chose the Ivy League school over Loyola-Maryland and St. Thomas in Minnesota.
Pierce admitted he was torn a little going into his official visit to Princeton, possibly even “leaning another way” at the time he took the visit in late September. But the official visit turned the tide in his recruitment as everything became more clear. He became more comfortable, familiar and was impressed with all that Princeton had to offer.
“Once I got on campus at Princeton, I fell in love with it,” said Pierce. “I spent a lot of time with the guys on the team and felt like I fit in really well with them. I watched them practice a little bit and felt like my game would fit well in that system. They are a talented, skilled group.”
What also stood out to Pierce was coach Mitch Henderson’s ability to develop players and how he believed the veteran coach was the right coach for him and his growth as a player.
“When I watched how coach Henderson coaches and how he prides himself on player development, I thought it would really benefit me,” said Pierce. “I think I’m just starting to scratch the surface of the player that I will hopefully be, and I think he would be the one to best develop me as a player.”
Then there is always the academic piece of Princeton and an Ivy League education. Pierce says that also played a big part in his decision as he searched for the right blend of basketball and academics.
“Going to Princeton isn’t a four-year decision but a lifetime decision,” said Pierce. “The connections and networks I establish at Princeton can set you up for the rest of your life.”
Pierce is the quintessential basketball Swiss Army knife. He fills a stat sheet, can direct an offense in a pinch and is a difference-making defender who is always given the task of stopping the opposing team’s best player.
But his greatest attributes go beyond the numbers and being able to play multiple positions. Pierce’s toughness and winning pedigree can also be measured by how he plays and how much he wins.
Pierce helped lead the Hilltoppers, who went 16-1 this past season, to an unblemished summer that included going unbeaten at both the Riverside-Brookfield Shootout and Ridgewood Shootout. He was instrumental in helping lead the Illinois Wolves to an Under Armour Association title.
Now he will join a Princeton program that went to the NCAA Tournament in 2017 and is coming off a 14-13 season a year ago.
But his immediate goal is to win two state championships as a senior at Glenbard West –– in basketball and golf.
Pierce, a two-time all-conference golfer in the West Suburban Silver, was part of a IHSA fifth-place state finish as a sophomore. This year the Hilltoppers have advanced to the IHSA State Finals this weekend after Monday’s qualifying sectional round.
The two-sport star believes golf has impacted his play on the basketball court in a positive way.
“I definitely think my mental game has improved a ton in basketball because of golf,” Pierce points out. “I just feel like when you are out on the course, you are in your own bubble, not talking to many people, competing in a different way. I think it’s teaching me patience and how to stay focused, especially when you aren’t playing the greatest. You stay focused and make the most of that moment.”
Pierce is ready for a big moment, whether it’s on the green this weekend or with a game on the line next March in state tournament play.
“I’m hoping to be put in that situation,” Pierce said with a laugh about the possibility of a pressure-packed putt or shot. “It would be pretty cool to have a putt on the line to win a state championship. I think it’s similar to shooting that free-throw with the game on the line.”