By David Green
DRAFFENVILLE – Dan Hall and Jim Piercefield stepped into entirely different scenarios as Marshall County High School athletes.
One continued a long line of tradition in the sport of basketball, both within his own family and in a larger sense. The other helped lay the foundation for growing interest in an different sport, football.
One had to live up to already existing expectations. The other had to recruit fellow players -- literally.
Both are part of MCHS sports history, and both will be inducted into the MCHS Athletic Foundation Hall of Fame next week.
Dan Hall, the basketball player, is the son of a North Marshall High School standout, Jeff Hall, who graduated one year before the state championship-winning Jets team of 1959.
Hall the son was part of the first MCHS team to advance to the final four in the Sweet Siteen.
“I feel very lucky to be part of that group,” Hall said, referring both to the Marshals teams of which he was a part and of the Marshal tradition that extends back even before Sharpe High School’s Green Devils brought the first basketball championship back to the county.
Hall, who experienced a growth spurt to shoot up to 6-foot-7, maybe 6-8 as a high school senior, eventually grew to 6-9. More importantly, he was able to bulk up a little bit from his high school senior weight of a rail-thin 180 pounds.
It was enough – barely – for Hall to become one of the Southeastern Conference’s better frontline players. It was not quite enough, he said, in some situations.
“I was 6-9, 220 pounds, guarding Shaquille O’Neal,” Hall said, referring to the burly Louisiana State behemoth. “You’re giving up just a little.”
Hall went on after graduation from Vanderbilt to play professional basketball in Spain. He found fundamental differences in the game at that time in Europe, but mostly he missed his “point guard for life,” as Hall refers to Aaron Beth.
The two played together as boys in the backyard at Beth’s grandmother’s house, Hall said, and they were teammates for Hall’s sophomore, junior and senior seasons both at Marshall County and at Vanderbilt. Hall, who graduated a year ahead of Beth, redshirted one season at Vandy.
“To this day, I have never seen a better ball handler in traffic or a better decision maker,” Hall said of Beth. “It’s because of him that I never learned to dribble.”
When Hall got to Spain, he said, he was lost.
Until then, year after year, he said, “I’d rebound the ball, pass it to him and he’d dribble down the court.” In Spain, Hall said, “my point guard was 40 years old” – and had nothing like the ball-handling skills or decision-making abilities Hall was accustomed to in a point guard.
Hall’s high school memories are tied to the unselfish nature of his teammates.
“We didn’t care who scored,” he said. “We wanted the team to win.
“I don’t know what my stats were. I didn’t care.”
Jim Piercefield’s family moved from Fort Thomas, Ky., when Piercefield was an eighth-grader. He enrolled at South Marshall High School.
He remembers riding around in the car of assistant coach Jim Shelton, literally going door-to-door to recruit players for the start-up team.
“We had to do some work to even get a team together,” he said.
Piercefield, who had been playing youth football since he was 7 years old, was one of 21 seniors on the 1979 team. The squad compiled a 9-1 record, losing only to Paducah Tilghman.
“Tilghman blocked a punt and scored the winning touchdown,” Piercefield said as he recalled the 13-7 loss. “It was a barnburner.”
Piercefield played in the defensive backfield at Marshall County and saw double duty as an offensive lineman. At 6-0 and 170 pounds, he went on to star as a defensive player for Murray State University, earning Associated Press walk-on all-America honors his senior year.
He was listed as a defensive end, “but it was more of an outside linebacker position,” Piercefield said.
Piercefield played for head coach Frank Beamer, now head coach at Virginia Tech, at Murray.
He accomplished an unusual feat for a defensive player in scoring a touchdown. It came on a blocked kick, which Piercefield returned 58 yards for the score.
“It was just something we practiced,” Piercefield said. “I was just doing what I was supposed to.”
The score came during Piercefield’s junior season against Ohio Valley Conference rival Austin Peay in Clarksvile, Tenn. Murray won 21-7.
Piercefield said he was honored to be the first football player chosen for the Hall of Fame.
“You think of all the kids who played since North Marshall in ‘69,” he said. “It’s a very big honor.”
He also noted the honor of the first player being chosen not for scoring touchdowns, but for his defensive work.
“You usually think of offense,” he said.
NEXT WEEK: Baseball player Scott Chambers and and basketball star Dan Langhi.