Pinson Realizing Potential

HIGH POINT, N.C. – There's a specific skill set required to play shooting guard at North Carolina.

Sure, there are dozens of players each year that can fulfill the requirement given by the position's optimal word. But, to be good enough to play the spot for the Tar Heels and Roy Williams, there are unique qualities a player must possess, assets like length, height and foot quickness.

In other words, UNC wants its shooting guards to do much more than shoot.

"The physical abilities UNC looks for are mainly for defensive purposes," said Tyler Brooks, a former manager at UNC and a longtime Inside Carolina contributor. "Quick feet helps players recover more effectively from a screen or a cut or in recovery from help position to ball position (or vice versa)."

Few players in each recruiting cycle fit this description. In the class of 2014, no one combines the things UNC is looking for more than High Point (N.C.) Wesleyan's Theo Pinson.

The first wing UNC offered, Pinson is a 6-foot-5, 181-poud guard with great quickness and length – a perfect fit for Carolina's style.

"Theo is very blessed," said Wesleyan head coach Keith Gatlin. "With his size and skill level, he can defend point guards, shooting guards, small forwards and he can really play multiple positions. He's very quick, very athletic and extremely agile."

UNC's preference for quick-footed guards doesn't mean it prioritizes defense over scoring and shooting. The Tar Heels have been their best under Williams when versatile scorers like Rashad McCants and Ellington manned the "2." Gatlin believes Pinson brings to the floor many of the same attributes they possessed.

"You want your "2" guard to be very skilled handling the ball," Gatlin said. "You want him to pass it, shoot it, rebound it and run the floor. Theo has all that. Now – like we do in practice every day – it's about polishing and developing skill."

Pinson said he wants to play the "2" in college and that the UNC staff – and other colleges – wants him to come in and be a playmaker. Eighteen months from enrolling at the school of his choice, he knows he still has work to do to make those wishes a reality.

"I'm not satisfied," explained Pinson. "I want to make everything stronger. I'm doing pretty good at all the aspects of my game, but they're not where they need to be for the next level."

With several other future Division I players – including 6-foot-9 freshman forward Harry Giles who is already on the Tar Heels' radar – Pinson's primary responsibility at Wesleyan is simple.

"Just the score the ball, basically," he said. "Then, I try to set my teammates up when they're open. And when we need a good bucket, I've just got to go get it."

"He was young last year," Gatlin added. "He's more mature and has bought into the weight room. Now he's running, more so than last year when he wanted the ball all the time. We can kick it out to him, because when he's out in the open court he's hard to defend."

Prior to this past summer, Pinson said a major hole in his game was consistent shooting ability and a mid-range game. He's been known as an elite defender since emerging on the national scene as a freshman.

"Last year I was a little passive on the court – my scoring has gotten better," said Pinson. "I wasn't as aggressive as I needed to be. But, I just tried to practice and play harder and my offensive game has improved."

Gatlin believes Pinson's potential is limitless.

"Theo can go as high as he wants to go," Gatlin said. "He's a great kid, has a great work ethic. I really think that now he sees the sense of urgency and that he can be as good as he wants to be."

Recruiting Update

With the high school season underway, recruiting has taken a backseat for Pinson. He hasn't taken any visits since going to Duke and UNC three weeks ago. He also doesn't have any visits scheduled.

"It's the same schools I've been talking to," said Pinson. "Carolina, Duke, N.C. State, Louisville, Georgetown, Florida State, Ohio State… a lot of schools."

He still says he's considering attending school with fellow 2014 standouts Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones.

"We're still talking about it," he said. "But right now, we're just letting each other get ready for their individual seasons."

Pinson and Roy Williams last spoke about a week ago.

"He was just telling me how ready he was for the first game," said Pinson. "He was congratulating me on being back and being able to play."

Even with all the attention, Gatlin said Pinson has done a great job of staying grounded, humble and hungry – something he attributes to Pinson's family.

"He's handling recruiting tremendously well," said Gatlin. "The good thing about Theo, he's a nice kid and has an awesome family support structure. I feel bad for him because I went through this when I was being recruited… he's going to have to break someone's heart. I don't think he wants to do that, because he's such a great kid.

"With social media and the way things are going now, I don't want to be any of these kids. I came through in a time when none of this was happening. Now, these kids can't even eat without something being said. My hats off to him, he's handled it very well."

Theo Pinson Profile

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