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Theo Watch: UNC’s Theo Pinson progressing, nearing return

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After helping the team from afar these past few months, he and his team are ready for a return to the court

Long Beach State v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

There’s no question that junior guard Theo Pinson has done everything in his power to help his team while sidelined by a broken foot. If you have watched even one Carolina game this season, you’ve seen Pinson engaged in the game and pumping up his teammates. Kennedy Meeks mentioned on Wednesday that Theo Pinson is “one of the best teammates I have ever had.” He went on to say “he always encourages everybody, and he always tries to get everybody involved.” As Meeks eluded to later, Pinson’s influence has been huge for the growth of the underclassmen. His experience on the team, as well has his perspective from the sideline, has allowed him to be a vocal leader. As far as his return to the court, here’s what Coach Williams had to say on Wednesday, post-UNI:

“He did a CT scan this week, they said it looked good. They released him for basketball-type activities, which means getting in basketball shape and seeing what he can handle. So far, he’s handled it.”

Roy went on to say that just because the trainers clear him for practice, doesn’t mean he’ll be in the starting lineup the next day. This is a very valid point. The last game Pinson played was over 8 months ago. Coach Williams will have to allow for some adjustment time, getting Theo back up to college basketball speed.

However, that doesn’t mean Theo Pinson isn’t itching to help his team on the court again. On Wednesday, Pinson was greeted with cheers when he came out of the tunnel dressed in uniform and warm-up gear. He was still wearing his glasses, and he wasn’t even really allowed to participate in the warm-up drills, but he knows he’s close. A source close to the team mentioned, “Yeah, he’s just tired of being in a suit.” I don’t blame him. I’m sure he would have loved to help dismantle the team that beat Carolina last year, following a tough loss to Kentucky. Earlier in his postgame presser, Kennedy Meeks had some thoughts about just how Pinson helps this team.

“We’ve got a creator, we’ve got somebody who is a great defender. For him to come back is big for us. I think when he comes back he’ll be ready because you can see how anxious he is on the sidelines. He’s definitely getting better though, and were ready for him to come back.”

Theo Pinson doesn’t add crazy point totals to this Carolina team. He’s not some show stopping scorer that has the ball when the game is on the line. Now, he did average almost three assists last season while not serving as the primary ball handler, and only averaging 18 minutes a game. It also goes without saying that he is extremely athletic, and as Meeks mentioned, a very good defender. However, what he really means for this squad is a bit more intangible. Theo brings energy, passion, and enthusiasm to his game that inspires his teammates. When his team needs a little boost, he’s this both on and off the court:

Long Beach State v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

And when Carolina has all the boost it needs, he adds a little bit more...

Point being, this North Carolina team will be better when he is back from injury. He provides a lift both with his moral and play, that helped his team get to that Elite 8 press conference (above) and more last season. He’ll help similarly this season. Depending on his progress and play during practice, it’s possible that he’ll step into a starting role as the 2 guard. If not, he’ll provide valuable minutes off the bench that will make the Tar Heels that much more deep of a team. By the time he gets his sea legs back, expect Theo Pinson to show off his much improved game from a year ago. Look for him to take a few more shots, and create on offense with his driving and dishing.

It will be interesting to see how long it takes Theo to get back into basketball shape after he’s cleared for full practice. My guess is that it will take him well into January to get ready for play. The Heels take on a good Florida State team on the 14th, and it would be a great time for his first game back. Continue working towards recovery, Theo. But for now, as Coach Williams would say, keep “working on those dance moves.”