‘If you haven’t seen Cierra play yet, shame on you’
Star senior and coach prepare for end of season
The women’s basketball team celebrated senior day on March 2, but the team’s final home game wasn’t until March 6. It was the last time for fans not traveling to Cleveland for the Mid-American Conference tournament to see senior guard Cierra Dillard.
Dillard came to UB three years ago from UMass-Amherst. Dillard led the Minutewomen in points and steals before transferring and returning closer to home in Buffalo. She sat out a year due to transfer rules and when that year was up, she became the Bulls’ best player.
She walked off the court as possibly the greatest player in UB history.
“If you haven’t seen Cierra play yet, shame on you,” head coach Felisha Legette-Jack said. “Because I’ve been telling you guys all year, especially since I’ve been doing this for 30 years, when I tell you this kid is different than most people I’ve ever been around, she’s different.”
Legette-Jack graduated from Syracuse in 1989 as the all-time leader in points at 1,526. Dillard has accumulated 1,299 in her time at UB alone and has scored over 2,000 points in her collegiate career. But Dillard is more than just a dynamic scoring threat to Legette-Jack.
“She cares and she is humble. She gives back and is in the community,” Legette-Jack said “We are not going to have a Cierra Dillard, male or female, to come through these doors again. She’s just different and I love her.”
Dillard played all but 12 seconds in her final game at Alumni Arena. She walked off the court to a standing ovation and Legette-Jack immediately hugged her on the sidelines.
Dillard took over in her final game. She shot the ball 30 times that night. Dillard only made six but managed to finish with 27 points. Her performance gave her the most points in a single season.
The Bulls capped off Dillard’s final home game with a 75-61 win against Bowling Green. Dillard had her own special cheering section with the members of Rochester’s Gates-Chili High School girls basketball team there to support. Dillard graduated from Gates-Chili as the top scorer of all time.
But nobody is a bigger fan than Dillard’s mother.
Dillard grew up with a single mother and she thought she was going to have to make it on her own. Legette-Jack came to her and told her that she has a whole team and they can do things together.
“You guys don’t understand where we come from,” Legette-Jack said. “The sacrifices her mother [has] made, and the sacrifices her brothers make. We went to Ohio last year in a snowstorm, we had one fan. It was Cierra Dillard’s mother. She drove through a snowstorm to see her child because her child struggled at her last institution. She just wants to be around her daughter.”
Dillard asked Legette-Jack not to get emotional, but her coach did.
“To be a part of this and see this young lady evolve into the most special character that I have ever been around, I am overwhelmed, I am grateful and I am humbled,” Legette-Jack said.
Dillard is now in her last month of playing college basketball and may only have one game left in a Bulls uniform if they lose in the quarterfinals of the MAC tournament. Dillard is humbled but loves her impact on Buffalo. She said her biggest joy is serving as a role model for her community.
Dillard said her “mother-daughter” relationship with Legette-Jack is a friendship like no other.
“When you have someone who understands you, who’s been where you are, and also you want to be where they are,” Dillard said. “The accolades that [Legette-Jack] has in Syracuse and being a Western New York kid, she did it right at home too, so I can as well,”
Nathaniel Mendelson is the senior sports editor and can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter @NateMendelson.