STAMFORD, Conn. – Stamford’s Eric Jean-Guillaume despised losing so much in his first two years on the men's basketball team at Franklin Pierce University that he considered transferring.
But he decided to stay at the Division II school in Rindge, N.H., and is now the catalyst behind a turnaround that has seen the team shoot up to become ranked 15th in the country and a favorite to win the conference championship.
Jean-Guillaume, a senior guard from Trinity Catholic, was named the Northeast-10 Conference Player of the Year last year when the team went 22-8, won the league’s regular-season title and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1996. He’s off to another big year for the Ravens (7-1), averaging 14 points and 3.1 assists, while playing a team-high 30 minutes a game.
It has been a remarkable turnaround for a team that went a combined 18-36 during his first two years.
“It was very frustrating,’’ Jean-Guillaume said. “I wasn’t used to losing. We lost more games that first year than I lost in my whole career at Trinity. But coach (David Chadbourne) told me he’d move me to shooting guard and he needed me to be a team leader. I told him for the last two years we weren’t going to be the old Franklin Pierce. We were going to be one of the top teams.”
Jean-Guillaume, a point guard throughout high school and his first two years of college, embraced the change to become a shooting guard. In his first game last season, Jean-Guillaume scored 12 points, dished out five assists, collected five steals and grabbed five rebounds in a 74-53 win over Molloy.
It was the start of a transformation that saw Jean-Guillaume blossom into a star. He led Pierce to its first winning season in 10 years. He averaged 14.8 points a game, reached double figures in 23 of them and topped 20 points six times.
“It was a little bit of an adjustment to go to shooting guard,’’ Jean-Guillaume said. “But I’m comfortable in this role now.”
He was a three-year starter at Trinity, where he helped team win one league championship, reach the state finals in his junior year and post an undefeated regular season as a senior.
“I’m really not surprised at all at what he’s achieved in college,’’ Trinity coach Mike Walsh said. “He worked hard at it, and it has come to fruition for him.”
One of the reasons for Jean-Guillaume’s early frustration at Pierce can be partially attributed to his high school career. “When I got here, I expected the success to carry over,’’ Jean-Guillaume said. “It doesn’t work that way. When we lost 15 games my freshman year I thought it was the end of the world.”
Now that Pierce is a league and national title contender, Jean-Guillaume's decision to stay after two frustrating years may have been one of the wisest he has ever made.
“There were a lot of days where I was thinking about transferring,’’ Jean-Guillaume said. “My dad told me you have to fight through it. And my coach told me after my second year that this was my team now, you have to be willing to take what comes with it. I knew it was the right choice to stay here.”