FORT WAYNE – Pierre Bland stepped through his apartment door the other morning, then stepped back in.
I walked outside (Monday) morning and I literally turned around and put on an extra jacket, he said. This cold is much different than what I’m used to.
Just as the 6-foot-2 junior point guard – one of six Floridians on the IPFW roster – is unfamiliar with the subfreezing Indiana winter, the Jacksonville native is also getting acquainted with Division I basketball.
Maybe the pace of the game is a little different, said Bland, who played junior college last season at Florida State at Jacksonville. Of course, the size – going up against a 6-4 point guard instead of a 5-9 point guard. I know it’s been an experience I’ve been waiting for for a long time. Me being here is just a blessing. I’m just trying to keep working; trying to be the best at what I’m doing and help my team win.
IPFW, like Bland, has had its share of good games and trying moments. The Mastodons (9-12, 2-5 Summit League) face co-league leader Western Illinois (15-4, 7-1) tonight at the Gates Center with the hope of not falling four games below .500 for the first time this season. Although the Mastodons have lost three of their last four, Bland is getting back into his old groove, now that a thigh injury is beginning to heal.
It was a deep contusion in my thigh, Bland said. I’ve been hit in my thigh before, but this was a little nagging one; a little worse. At first it was in the middle of my thigh; then it started moving to my hip flexor area. It was pretty bad. I can see it getting better, with my play.
Since the season began, Bland and Isaiah McCray have been splitting the point guard duties. But because of his injury, Bland has seen more bench than floor and hasn’t started the last seven games. But in splitting last week’s games between South Dakota and UMKC, Bland combined for nine points and six assists. In his last six games, he’s had 12 assists and four turnovers.
He does a really good job of making his teammates better, IPFW coach Tony Jasick said of Bland. I don’t know that you can give a bigger compliment to a kind of true point guard. He finds his teammates. His assist-to-turnover ratio is very positive. I think he’s a guy, like, he feels better when his teammates score. I think he’s a fun guy to play with.
Whether Jasick starts Bland or McCray tonight remains uncertain. And that’s OK with Bland.
When I came here, me and Ike battled back and forth, back and forth – every day, Bland said. Coach came up with the idea of having rotating roles; I’ll start one game and (McCray will) start the next, so there wouldn’t be any conflict or whatever. I respected that. We both bring something to the table. Obviously coach saw that. There was no problem. I just wanted to be out there when I’m out there, giving my all, giving my best.