It has been a season of false starts for Theo Pinson, the North Carolina junior forward. Back in October, after the Tar Heels began practice, he was anticipating becoming a full-time starter and providing in larger doses the energy for which he’s known.
Then he endured a broken bone in his right foot, and the injury forced him to miss UNC’s first 16 games. He returned on Jan. 8 and played 13 minutes in the 51-point victory against N.C. State. He played in the next five games after that. And then, another injury.
Healthy, hurt, healthy, hurt.
“It was rough,” Pinson said on Sunday after UNC’s victory against Notre Dame in Greensboro. He was speaking of his latest setback. “I want to be out there with my guys. We were just starting to get used to me being out there again, and it’s just a big blow for me a little bit. But I’ll have another chance.”
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That chance is likely to come sooner than later. Pinson has missed the Tar Heels’ past three games after he suffered an ankle injury during a victory against Virginia Tech on Jan. 26. In the aftermath of that injury, there was speculation that Pinson had re-injured his right foot.
The fear, it turned out, was exaggerated. Pinson dressed out on Sunday and went through pregame warmups with his teammates. He looked as though he was prepared to play, though Pinson continued to sit out. It is, he said, “only a matter of time” before he’s playing again.
“I feel like I’m getting close,” Pinson said on Sunday. “I’m feeling better. I mean, when I got hurt, I was little down about it. I’m feeling better, had a lot more energy today.”
It’s a small sample size, only six games, but the Tar Heels haven’t lost this season when Pinson has played. Last season, they didn’t lose when Pinson scored more than two points. He helps UNC in a variety of ways, some more well understood than others.
One thing is clear enough: Pinson is UNC’s most versatile player. UNC plays at Duke on Thursday, and Pinson hinted he could be ready to go in time for that game. His return would be a welcome sight for the Tar Heels, whose potential rises with Pinson’s presence.
“I’m feeling real good right now,” Pinson said. “No pain, nothing.”
UNC at Duke
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Cameron Indoor Stadium, Durham