Pinson Eyeing Return

CORAL GABLES, Fla. – Theo Pinson dressed out but did not play in No. 15 North Carolina’s 73-64 win over Miami on Saturday. The freshman wing is hoping to return to the lineup at Georgia Tech on Tuesday night.

“The goal right now is the Georgia Tech game.” Pinson told reporters following the game. “We’re going to progress things to see how I take things at practice with contact and stuff like that, so hopefully I’m out there Tuesday night.”

Pinson has missed the last 10 games after fracturing the fifth metatarsal in his left foot during the first half of UNC’s 87-71 at Wake Forest on Jan. 21.

He shot around briefly – in socks – before UNC’s home game against N.C. State on Tuesday before dressing out and participating in shootaround with his team at the BankUnited Center on Saturday.

UNC athletic trainer Doug Halverson worked the Greensboro, N.C product through a series of drills roughly an hour before tip-off. Pinson dribbled down the court before pulling up for 3-point attempts on the left wing, and then ran back and received passes at the top of the key and in the corner to test his foot.

Pinson proved that he still has plenty of bounce by elevating in the paint and throwing down a two-handed dunk.

UNC head coach Roy Williams said after the game that Pinson had not been cleared to play and therefore was not available against the Hurricanes. Williams indicated the pregame work was a part of Pinson’s rehab program and that he has been limited to a similar degree in practice.

Pinson’s rehab process has included a healthy dose of vitamin C and laser bone stimulation, but the key component to his potential return next week is a clamshell insole that wraps around his foot.

“That’s the thing that’s really giving me a chance to play,” Pinson said. “It’s really the only thing that’s giving me a chance, so I’m glad I’ve got that.”

Pinson averaged 3.3 points and 3.7 rebounds and had a team-best assist-to-turnover ratio (36:16) through UNC’s first 19 games of the season. His greatest asset, however, may be his energy level.

“He’s all energy,” junior guard Marcus Paige said. “A lot of the things he can do are the things that we need. We need guys that are going to take the challenge of guarding somebody or trying to get out and run, crash the boards. We have pretty much everything else, but he just gives us that dynamic of that junkyard dog-type guy that’s not afraid of anything…

“I think getting him back will be a lift in that regard and I think he can push the energy level of our team up defensively and on the break, so I hope we do get him back soon.”

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