Pinson: 'I Dreamed of This Day'

When Theo Pinson suited up for the CP3 17U AAU team as a 14-year-old, he realized had a chance to be pretty good. Three years later, Pinson is one of the top 30 players in the country, a state champion and will likely be selected to prestigious All-American games in the spring. And, he's going to play for North Carolina next season.

One hundred and seventy-four days since he committed to UNC in front of family, friends and classmates, Pinson makes it official Wednesday - the first day of the Fall Signing Period.

In a small, brief ceremony following practice, he'll sign a national letter of intent with the Tar Heels. High Point (N.C.) Wesleyan Christian Academy teammates Donovan Gilmore and JaQuel Richmond will also sign with College of Charleston and Houston, respectively.

"I wanted to do it with them because they went through the same thing I did," said Pinson. "We actually decided we wanted it this way last year. It's hard to believe the day is here and we're all excited."

Pinson said that while he understands the gravity of the moment – officially becoming a Tar Heel and knowing that his hard work has paid off – his mind will be elsewhere.

"It's a real comfort knowing that my parents helped me out to get where I am today," he explained. "I think they'll be a little emotional and I will be too. I dreamed of this day and it's finally here. "

It's difficult for those who don't have a future high-major Division I player in the house to understand the sacrifice, nurturing and patience that comes along with such gifts.

Barbara Pinson could spend hours regaling fans with stories about missed flights, exhausting Mondays at work, backyard shooting sessions, late-night drives to campuses across the country and the never-ending ring of recruiters and media calls.

Instead, she's thankful for all of the places basketball has taken her son.

"I think it's going to be like bittersweet," she said. "We have been with Theo this whole time and we've seen him grow in so many ways. This is another step that he's excited about taking and we're excited about. We've tried to cherish every moment we had on the road. We didn't look at it as long trips, but memorable moments that he'll always have and we'll always be able to share. It's rewarding because in the end he got the opportunity to go to a school like UNC. He's just living the dream. We're real proud of him."

Following his verbal commitment, Pinson felt embraced by the Carolina family. Fans in his hometown of Greensboro and at his school thanked him. He received congratulatory texts and messages from former players.

So, while he's felt like a Tar Heel since May, signing only adds to his desire to get to Chapel Hill.

"When I sign the paper, it's going to make me even more eager to get down there and get started playing in front of all those great fans," he said. "I'm ready to go."

Joining Pinson in UNC's signing class is wing Justin Jackson and point guard Joel Berry. The three-man group is poised to be UNC's highest-rated class since 2010.

"If you look at how we've done in high school and AAU, we all just like winning," Pinson said. "That's what we're going to try our best to do in Chapel Hill - win. We're constantly laughing, having fun and I can tell we can get along well once we get down there."

Wesleyan and Pinson, who are without 2016 UNC target Harry Giles this season, started the defense of their NCISAA 3A state championship on Tuesday with a 73-50 win over Freedom Christian. Pinson contributed 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists to the winning cause.

Pinson has a host of goals for his senior season, none more important, however, than winning another title.

"I feel good about our team," he said. "We feel like we have something to prove because everyone is doubting us because Harry is out. It's making us hungry to do it again."

With Leslie McDonald's eligibility exhausted and P.J. Hairston's status for this season, let alone the 2014-15 campaign, in flux, sophomore J.P. Tokoto will be the only returning recruited wing on UNC's roster next year. Pinson is aware and preparing for it.

"I probably talk to the coaching staff, not just Coach Williams, but either Coach (C.B.) McGrath or Coach (Hubert) Davis, like every other day," he said. "I'm ready for the challenge that's coming. That's why I chose North Carolina, so I can be in that kind of situation and show everyone what I can do. And bring another national championship to Chapel Hill."

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