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A homecoming of a lifetime for Merrill’s Pieper

Published: Aug. 28, 2020 at 10:14 PM CDT
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Merrill, Wis. (WSAW) -It was a surprise when former Merrill boys basketball head coach Jake Schalow stepped down after a 17-6 season that saw the Blue Jays go to a regional final.

Luckily, they didn’t have to look far to find his replacement.

“I’ve been a Blue Jay my whole life, and it’s good to be home.”

Troy Pieper never thought last season would be his only one at Wausau East.

Then again, he didn’t think home would come calling so soon. Pieper is the new head coach at his alma mater.

“I loved (Wausa) East,” says Pieper. “The one year I was there the parents, everyone accepted me so much, and I feel like we had something kind of going a little bit. So, it was mixed feelings, I didn’t know what to do even. But at the end of the day, family and hometown just wins.”

Pieper is a 1998 Merrill graduate, a three-year all-conference player for the Blue Jays, a former assistant coach, and a one-time interim head coach.

Now, take that interim tag away.

“Oh, it’s exciting,” Pieper says. “I grew up here, played here, coached here. Know the kids, know the families, know the parents already.”

As for what does being a Blue Jay means to Pieper?

“Everything.”

“It’s just what I’ve been my entire life,” says Pieper. “I’ve coached here, I grew up here, my kids live here and go to school here.”

The Blue Jays won 70% of their games the last four years, with multiple alums playing college ball, Pieper wants to parlay that success into the foundation of a powerhouse program.

“Bringing those players back from college in the summer to run camps so they’re present still, I think will be huge,” says Pieper.

“I plan on doing that. I think that will be cool for the youth kids to see those guys come back and be like ‘oh, I can do this too.’”

Merrill will be Pieper’s third job in the last three years, after spending last season at East, and the year before at Northland Pines.

This stay will likely be a bit longer.

“Yeah I don’t see myself ever leaving,” says Pieper. “They’ll have to tell me when it’s time to go.”

Copyright 2020 WSAW. All rights reserved.

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