CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – After missing a large portion of his freshman season and all of the summer with a foot injury, Theo Pinson has returned to full health and is No. 1 in North Carolina’s rotation.
“We really need him to be a big-time player for us,” Roy Williams said at Top of the Hill restaurant.
Pinson has shown signs of potentially flourishing this season, especially in regard to taking care of the basketball. Williams values the assist-turnover ratio, and early on, Pinson has delivered.
“He’s got to have a good assist-to-error ratio,” Williams said. “Man alive, 8-0 [on Sunday]? That was sensational.”
Pinson is averaging nine points, seven rebounds and 6.5 assists per game through two games.
The sophomore wing still has plenty of work to do on the defensive end.
“He can really be a fantastic defender, and he hasn’t just bought into it yet,” Williams said. “That’s not meaning it in a negative way, he just hasn’t realized, he just hasn’t embraced that role, he hasn’t adjusted to that.”
Despite the occasional defensive lapse, Williams understands that he has a special player on his team, one with high potential for the coming years.
“He is really good with the ball, he can make plays, he’s active, his motor’s running,” Williams said. “He’s got a chance to be a big-time player, and the good thing to me is his upside is way up there.”
Nate Britt has been off to a great start this season. What’s worked so well for him?
“He’s shot the ball really well for us, he really has. He’s put in a lot of time in that gym. A lot of the other guys do just as well, but he really does put in a lot of time and to make the big changeover after his freshman year from the left hand to the right hand, he’s gotten a lot of shots up since that change was made, and you’re seeing the results of a lot of extra time in the gym.”
Have you noticed signs of the game slowing down for Britt?
“I think so. I’m not sure what his assist-to-error ratio is, but it’s pretty doggone good, too. I think the game slows down with every year you play, because you just get more accustomed to what’s going on, the speed, the athleticism of the other guys, it helps in every area.”
These slow starts in November aren’t a long-term concern for your team, are they?
“No, it’s not. Some of the teams we’ve had started out great, the lineup was set and everything. Well, our lineup was set two and a half weeks ago, and we knew one guy that was going to really be the leader, and all of a sudden now you take out the leader, and now everybody’s saying ‘Okay, what am I supposed to do now?’ It’s different. And we’re playing eight or nine guys a lot of minutes, so you’re going to have some of that, but I think over the course of a game, playing eight or nine guys is really effective at the end of the game.
“You don’t worry as much about foul trouble, you’re able to keep the pace up, and all of a sudden your fast break gets more effective at the end of the game. And, if you play eight or nine guys and those eight or nine or ten guys, if they stay healthy at the end of the year, that gives you some more advantages right there. It didn’t surprise me, but I’m not worried about that part of it.”
How tough is it for a team to corral long rebounds?
“It is. And the other thing, long shots, long rebounds. We’re playing two little guys a lot together. Both of them are point guards. A point guard’s responsibility when a shot is taken is they’re supposed to get back. They’re not supposed to get caught in the middle at mid-range there, so for us, getting Nate to realize, ‘Wait a minute, I’m the 2-man right now, that means I’ve got to go to the offensive long rebounds right along the foul line.’ It’s not habit yet, so it’s going be a difficult thing.
“There will be some times this year that we play Joel (Berry), Nate and Marcus (Paige) all three together. And that will hurt us on the offensive boards, because that’s not what they’re used to. And at the same time, it should give us great spacing and the ability to drive, and the ability to pressure people. Long shots, long rebounds.
“If you remember Wayne (Ellington) and Danny Green for example, they were used to rebounding, and Ty (Lawson) would get back and everything was okay. Rashad McCants and Jackie Manuel and those guys were used to rebounding. That’s the way they grew up. Well, Joel Berry and Nate and Marcus, that’s not the way they grew up, so that’s going to take a while to get those guys, but I liked the little guys in the lineup. Plus, we need to play those little guys together some.”
What are your thoughts on the three freshman that just signed?
“Tony (Bradley) is a great youngster. We’re very fortunate. All three of them are really, really big-time kids, and very, very good students. They really are. Tony’s a post player who can score inside who first caught my eye by the way he ran. I love big guys that can run. Probably Tyler Zeller’s the best runner I’ve had in the 13 years I’ve had back here, and Tony’s got a chance to really be good. I don’t know if he’ll be quite the runner that Tyler Zeller was, but he can run, he can score inside, he’s just getting bigger and stronger all the time. Great family, big-time guy for us.
“Brandon (Robinson) is similar to Jackie Manuel. A little better shooter, very thin, can do some things from the three-point line and take it to the basket and dunk on a bunch of people. Another guy with a great family and high school program’s been really, really good. I went to see him at the high school late about a week or two before he signed, and all of the teachers kept coming out of the classrooms and telling me what a great kid he was. You love that, he’s a big-time student, but he’s a guy that can do some things for us and help us.
“Seventh (Woods) is a guy we’ve been recruiting for three years. I don’t know if I’ve ever recruited anybody longer than I’ve recruited Seventh. He’s a very explosive youngster who’s got Ty Lawson, Raymond Felton kind of explosiveness. Speed-wise, and vertically, more explosive than either one of those guys. He has the ability to push the ball at the pace that we really like. He’s getting better and better as a shooter, and he’s a gamer. He’s made eight threes in the fourth quarter one time to bring the team back, he’s an explosive young man. Again, a great family, and a kid that we’re really going to enjoy having.”