We can all make that shot in our driveway when no one is looking. We can even make that basket at the local park, in a league, or even at a competitive level such as college basketball. But none of those places measure up to being in front of thousands of screaming fans on national television. Entering his sophomore year at Gonzaga University, Pierre-Marie Altidor-Cespedes has already passed that state of worry and shock. Running the court in a small gym in St-Lambert, Quebec doesn’t compare to pushing the fast break against Bobby Knight’s Texas Tech in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament. And now that Cespedes is familiar with his immediate basketball environment, he’s ready to continue to flourish and shine.
Starting from the first time he picked up a basketball as a toddler, it has always been a success story for the 21-year-old point guard nicknamed P-MAC. Wondering whether there was a summer camp or defining year where his skills drastically improved, Cespedes feels that he doesn’t have a specific time where that happened. Ask John Dangelas, Cespedes’ former head coach of three years at Champlain College, and he’ll tell you it’s no lie.
“Pierre came to Champlain with talent,” explained Dangelas, who’s been exporting premium players every spring. “We just worked on tightening up his game for the next level, which is where he’s at now. Pierre’s a true point guard with a lot of talent. I mean a lot of talent.” While under the microscope in the West Coast Conference of Division One, P-MAC knows that the numbers do matter, and the only way to solve that is by enhancing his game on the overall level.
Quiet and soft-spoken off the court, Cespedes lets his game speak for itself, whether it’s in practice, a slam dunk competition, or even playing for the Canadian Junior National Team. While many floor leaders with enhanced talent like to take the matter of scoring into their own hands, P-MAC believes in the pass-first/shoot-if-necessary style of play. Speedy point guards enjoy working the fast break while their defensive counterparts are back peddling. While Cespedes favors the fast break, he is a true team player that believes in working with a system of college team play.
As a former CreativeArts major at Champlain College in St-Lambert, just south of Montreal Island, Cespedes put up major numbers as he dropped an average of 19 points while dishing out 7.7 assists per game. He led the Cavaliers to the Nationals in 2003-2004 after they won the provincial title. With many scouts assessing his talent, Cespedes wisely chose to attend Gonzaga University, having considered their high ranking and well-respected basketball program.
“I knew when I was completing at Champlain that I wanted to play for a program that pushes the ball and scores a lot,” says the Communications/Broadcasting major during a phone interview from his on-campus dormitory in Spokane. “I like to play a fast game and they have a great success rate with point guards. I’ve learned a lot over here and the biggest part of my game that I need to improve is how to adjust to each different opponent with the proper preparation.”
Cespedes realizes that his talent does not stand out as much as it did in Canada, and to be able to excel at the highest level of amateur basketball, he must become more aggressive and truly press every opportunity that comes his way. Even as he thrives for more opportunities, the trilingual Brossard, Quebec native has a humble and modest approach to his role on such a powerful team.
“As young as I may be on this team, I know that my role is as dynamic as every other guy on the court or the bench. We all have a passion and love for basketball, and we have the full potential to further our basketball careers by playing for a great program at the highest level of university basketball.”
When Cespedes says this, he understands that furthering his career doesn’t necessarily mean he must play professional basketball, but it doesn’t count it out either. He’s a young man that doesn’t get over anxious or over ambitious. Cespedes comes from a good family where everything is put into the proper perspective. The only way he can give back to his Canadian roots and the basketball in his nation is by continuing to work hard at Gonzaga University.