High School Basketball

In-state hoops star Pinson picks UNC

acarter@newsobserver.comMay 23, 2013 

  • Head of class?

    UNC landed its third top-15 player in the ESPN’s Class of 2014.

    Rk. Player Pos. Size
    12 Joel Berry,Lake Highland Prep, Apopka, Fla.PG6-0, 185
    13 Theo Pinson,Wesleyan Christian, High PointSF6-6, 190
    14 Justin Jackson,Homeschool Christian Youth, Tomball, TexasSF6-7, 185

  • Where they went

    A look at where the state’s highest rated player has gone to college (Rivals.com rankings):

    Class Player From Rk. School
    2014Theo PinsonHigh Point15UNC
    2013Isaiah HicksOxford16UNC
    2012Rodney PurvisRaleigh12N.C. State
    2011Quincy MillerHigh Point7Baylor
    2010Reggie BullockKinston10UNC
    2009John WallRaleigh1Kentucky
    2008Ty WalkerWilmington17Wake Forest
    2007Tracy SmithDurham47N.C. State
    2006Davon JeffersonPatterson15Southern Cal
    2005Shawne WilliamsLaurinburg15Memphis

Theo Pinson Sr. thought on Wednesday about the first time his son had a chance to speak with Roy Williams, the North Carolina coach. Williams had told the younger Pinson that he didn’t often spend an abundance of time speaking with high school prospects – only about 10 or 15 minutes per conversation.

In recent weeks, though, the elder Pinson noticed that his son spent more and more time speaking with Williams. And after Theo Pinson committed on Wednesday to play for the Tar Heels, Pinson Sr. attributed his son’s decision to the relationship that Williams forged.

“He said it’s probably going to come down to who’s going to be one of the last coaches I talked to at the end,” Pinson Sr. said during a phone interview. “And I think the last coach he talked to was coach Roy, and he put the full-court press on him.”

Pinson, a 6-foot-6 small forward from Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, is regarded as one of the top junior prospects in the country. ESPN.com ranks him the No. 13 prospect in the class of 2014.

He joins a UNC recruiting class that now includes three of the top 15 players in the nation, according to ESPN.com. In addition to Pinson, the Heels also have commitments from Joel Berry, an Orlando, Fla., point guard who’s ranked the 12th-best prospect in the class, and Justin Jackson, a Tomball, Texas, forward who’s the No. 14 recruit.

No other school in the country has received more than one commitment from a junior prospect ranked among the top 50 by ESPN.com. Pinson chose UNC over Indiana, and also considered Duke, Georgetown and Louisville.

Indiana recruited Pinson “very hard and well,” his father said, but Pinson chose to play a short drive from his family’s home in Greensboro.

“It’s an hour from his house,” said Dave Telep, the ESPN national college basketball recruiting analyst. “His parents (are close), his dad’s going to go to every game. I think what’s interesting here is that Indiana committed to this guy with all their resources. And then at the end North Carolina flexed its in-state muscle, and that was it.”

In the end, two schools – UNC and Indiana – were most in contention for him.

The Tar Heels and Hoosiers, who played last season in Bloomington, Ind., are no strangers to recruiting against each other. Most recently, they both recruited Cody Zeller, the younger brother of Tyler Zeller, who in 2012 earned ACC Player of the Year honors during his senior season at UNC.

The younger Zeller decided to stay home and play at Indiana. Pinson decided to remain in his home state, too.

“I think with Theo, it kind of lets you know that North Carolina fully intends to protect their backyard,” Telep said. “Because this is a situation where they’ve recruited against Indiana before. And North Carolina had gone into Indiana a couple of times, and lost Cody Zeller to Indiana, and I think that in this particular instance, Roy Williams wasn’t having any of Indiana coming into his borders.”

Williams recruited Pinson directly, and Pinson Sr. said his son spent more time speaking with Williams than with any other head coach. Those conversations made an impression on Pinson, who began to lean towards UNC last week, his father said.

“I think once he knew, he knew where he wanted to go,” Pinson Sr. said. “I think he looked at everything about the college, the coach, tradition, fans, the school. And all that good stuff. I think he was talking to coach Roy one day last week and realized that pretty much everything he had been looking for was (at UNC), right under his nose.”

Pinson averaged 13 points per game last season and helped lead Wesleyan to an independent schools state championship. Not a prolific scorer, Pinson is known instead for his versatility. He can play multiple positions and excels in a variety of roles on both ends of the floor.

Adding wing players has been a priority for the Tar Heels in the 2014 recruiting class. Both Pinson and Jackson, the small forward from Texas, help fill that need.

“The significance of Theo is that he’s going to be their Swiss Army knife,” Telep said. “He’ll be that guy that can guard multiple positions. He is not a volume scorer. He is more of the creator, facilitator, defender. So I think what it does is it increases his overall value to their team. Because he gives you a real defined role at both ends.

“Theo Pinson should become one of the best defensive players that they’ve had in recent memory.”

Defense played a role in his recruitment, too. It was Williams’ defense of his home turf, and his persistence in recruiting Pinson, that secured a commitment from another top-15 prospect.

Carter: 919-829-8944; Twitter: @_andrewcarter

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