Men's Basketball: The "Gentle Giant" leads by example, on and off the court

By Rob Wilson
On February 21, 2014

At nine years old, Chris Pelcher had a dream to be a basketball player. Now, 14 years later, Pelcher is living out his dream as a Div. I college basketball player for the University of New Hampshire.

Pelcher, No. 44, currently plays center for the Wildcats. But before transferring to UNH he spent his first two years playing college basketball for Iona, a close-to-home private college in New Rochelle, N.Y., 147 miles south of Albany, N.Y. where Pelcher grew up. 

During his time at Iona, the team experienced three head coaching changes over five years. The inconsistency of game plans, offensive mindsets, and other variables took away from Pelcher's potential as a player. It became more inevitable for Pelcher to look elsewhere for his remaining future in college basketball. 

Right out of high school, the Wildcats pushed heavily to recruit Pelcher but were denied. However, after being notified of Pelcher's desire to transfer two years later, UNH men's basketball associate head coach Ken Dempsey decided to give the 6'10", 240 lbs. Pelcher a call.

"Coach Demps gave me a call one day and asked for me to come up for a visit of the campus," Pelcher said. "When I came up for the visit, I really liked the school, saw a great education opportunity and the coaching staff's great passion for the game, so I decided to commit."

UNH men's basketball head coach Bill Herrion saw a great addition to his team when Pelcher decided to commit. In the past two years of coaching Pelcher, Herrion has nothing but praise for Pelcher, whom he calls, "the gentle giant."

"He has been such a great addition to our basketball team on and off the court," Herrion said. "He has really good skill, which he proved last year on the offensive floor for us. Chris is just a really good kid, he is going to graduate with a degree and definitely has a chance after college to continue his basketball career if he decides to."

"If you put your mind to it, you can do it." Those are the words that Pelcher lives by, and were the words of his high school coach Brian Frucio, who saw Pelcher's potential to play at a very high level. Along with the motivation from his high school coach, Pelcher received most of his motivation from his family, crediting his mother and sister for their support in following his dream.

Pelcher was an athletic kid who played a wide range of sports like football, lacrosse, baseball and track and field, before finding his love for basketball.

"It was my dream to play Div. I college basketball and it was in my junior year of high school that I knew it was coming true," Pelcher said. "At the time I was receiving a lot of football letters, but I knew that basketball is where I wanted to be. My father passed away when I was only two, so it was my mom and sister that were always there to support me when I was down. I'd say they are the ones who motivate me the most."

For any college athlete, the lifestyle is much different than a typical college student who normally goes from class to dorm life. For athletes, they have to work around class, as well as their sport schedule, which leaves managing time as being the biggest challenge for Pelcher's lifestyle as a student-athlete.

"My schedule is crazy and sometimes overwhelming," Pelcher said. "You have to manage your time well. The average day for me is usually going for treatment, class, to practice, to more treatment and then homework. Some days you wake up at seven in the morning to head out to the bus for away games, and those days turn in 12-hour days. It is just a schedule that takes time to adjust to."

Even though Pelcher has succeeded as a Wildcat over these past two years, he was limited on the court due to two serious injuries. The first injury took place towards the end of the first season when Pelcher separated his shoulder, sidelining him for several games. Pelcher battled a leg injury this season causing him to miss 12 games. 

Today, Pelcher is back in the lineup but still trying to find his groove, a groove that will take a couple of games to find. Despite the battling of injuries and challenges, Pelcher continues to overcome obstacles that stand in the path of his dream to play basketball.

"When you get injured it's a learning experience," Pelcher said. "You just have to accept that in life, everything is not going to go as planned."

During his first season as a Wildcat, Pelcher displayed a tenacious game on the offensive side, putting up double-digit scoring outputs from game to game, until teams decided to double him in coverage, which Herrion expresses as a time where Pelcher's numbers went down.

"Chris was impressive in his first year here at UNH offensively until teams began to double team him towards the end of the season," Herrion said. "In the offseason, before this season, the coaching staff and I challenged him to be a better rebounder, a little more force on the glass. This season Chris has improved tremendously in that department, and his numbers have gone way up. It just shows when he is on the court and is healthy, he can be a big impact for us. I truly believed if he was fully healthy, he would have had a monster year."

When it comes to describing Pelcher as a person, the first word that comes to teammate and fellow senior Jordon Bronner is goofy.

"He is just a big goofy guy," Bronner said. "Not many people who expect that, but he is. Most importantly, he is a great teammate and does a lot for the guys. Most of the things he does for us goes unseen. For example, he is a big help to freshmen William Gabriel and Jacoby Armstrong. He is always giving those guys advice since they play the same position, and vocally he leads by example."

While others see Pelcher as a good teammate, Armstrong sees a warrior. 

"He really is a competitor," Armstrong said. "Coming off an injury and being able to put great numbers up despite being out there too fast, it just shows that he wants to win. He is always letting me know what I'm doing wrong, always encouraging me, he is just a good, funny and laid-back kid who studies the game. There is not one negative thing about him."

With only a few games left in his collegiate basketball career, Pelcher seeks to find somewhere to play in the future. Pelcher will graduate with a sociology degree.

"I just want to be in basketball for the rest of my life," Pelcher said. "If I can play anywhere after college, I will do it. Someday I would like to get into coaching, whether it is starting as an assistant somewhere and eventually becoming a head coach. Anything to do with basketball, I'm all there for it. I'd also like to help young people too. With only a few games left in the season, I am hoping the team can make history in the tournament, and do something special."

 

Follow Rob Wilson on Twitter @RobWilson_TNH


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