One of the best pieces of news that the North Carolina Tar Heels received this offseason was that Theo Pinson would be returning for his senior year at Chapel Hill. Pinson entered the NBA draft without an agent, but he removed his name not long after and announced his decision to come back.
Pinson is still mostly known for his off-court antics (crashing press conferences, leading the pre-game dancing, etc.). As Coach Williams would put it, “It’s just Theo being Theo.” Pinson’s energy and fun personality are a big reason these past two championship runs have been so enjoyable for the team and the fans. Still, it feels like Theo doesn’t always get the necessary recognition for his on-court “antics.” This upcoming season presents an opportunity for him to change that narrative.
As a junior, Pinson suffered a foot injury before the season started that kept him out until January. He managed to settle back into the lineup very quickly and ultimately played an integral role in helping the Tar Heels secure their sixth national championship. However, because of the foot injury (as well as a minor ankle injury that caused him to miss a few more games), Pinson didn’t exactly have that “breakout” year that many were expecting him to have.
Next season, Pinson will team with Joel Berry II to comprise arguably the scariest backcourt duo in the country. Without Justin Jackson and Nate Britt back there, Pinson will see more time with the ball in his hands. He must continue to improve his game if he wants to have the Tar Heels back in the same position they were last year.
The biggest question mark for Pinson right now is his shooting ability. It wasn’t long after he returned from his injury that Pinson started hoisting up some head-scratching threes given his pedigree. It would be easy to chalk up this misguided confidence as another instance of “Theo being Theo” but I’m convinced otherwise.
Pinson does have a tendency to goof off and mess around, but as soon as the ball is tipped, he is locked in. When he initially went down in October, Roy Williams expressed his dejection, going on about how well Pinson had been doing in practice. My guess is Roy gave him a green light, allowing him to take the open jumper when it was there. Pinson was just never able to get in any sort of rhythm.
This is why next season could be so big for Pinson. UNC will need his outside shooting percentage to increase in order to compensate for the lack of experience down low. This is not to say Pinson will become the next Wayne Ellington, but if he can consistently knock down some threes, it will go a long way in aiding his team’s tournament prospects as well as his chances at the next level.
Of course, none of this could come to fruition and we could see essentially the exact same Theo Pinson next year just on a slightly larger scale. Luckily, any team in the country would take this version of Theo in a heartbeat, which is the glorious part of all this hypothetical talk. The reason I spent so much time discussing Pinson’s jumper is because he already does everything else so well.
Pinson is a do-it-all, stat sheet stuffer type of player. Passing, rebounding, and defending are all major strengths of his. He brings an energy unmatched by any other player on the floor, but he’s not the kind of guy who will go out there and put up 30 on any given night. If he could make himself a legitimate scoring threat alongside Berry, watch out college basketball.